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Sin, Guilt, and Salvation III

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Question #1:  

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 KJV

Hi Bob, does this verse apply just to new Christians or to all Christians?

I know our sins are forgiven in Jesus, past, present and future.

Your friend

Response #1: 

1st John 1:9 definitely applies to us all – which is why all Christians should make personal confession of sins a regular, daily practice (it's in the Lord's prayer, after all), and not overlooking the need to forgive others as well, as our Lord told us (e.g., Matt.6:15).

The main link on sin is BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin.  Here are some other links on this subject generally:

Sin, Guilt and Salvation I

Sin, Guilt and Salvation II

Sin and Spiritual transformation

Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

God's Dealing with the Sins of Individual Human Beings (in BB 3B)

Mutual Encouragement in Christ II

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

Fighting the Fight I: Accountability, Faith, Sin, Forgiveness, and Reward

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

Sanctification, Separation and Restraint

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Hope you are doing well, my friend – and keeping you in my daily prayers.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

It's probably been a while since I emailed you. I have been reading the Peter series and it helped a lot, I really thank you for recommending me that, I understood a lot, I'm still in #17 which is "Imitating Christ".

Now, I have a question about 1 John 2:19, what does this verse mean, does it talk about people who are not truly saved, or does it talk about believers who apostatized?

Response #2: 

You're very welcome.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
1st John 2:19 KJV

As to 1st John 2:19, it's potentially both since there is no practical difference between unbelievers who were only pretending to be believers and then left fellowship on the one hand, and believers who apostatized / reverted to being unbelievers and left the fellowship. They were "not of us" at the time when they left, and that is the important, "operative" fact. It's important to remember that only believers are saved (Jn.3:18), so that our faith in Jesus Christ is the most important thing we have in this life. Many are prophesied to give it up during the Tribulation when the going gets tough, taking the mark of the beast to avoid persecution and destitution. But that is short-sighted, giving up eternity for a mess of pottage.

This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
2nd Timothy 2:11-13 NKJV

I'm confident of better things for you, my friend (Heb.6:9)!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Thanks for clarifying your view!

While we are on the 1 John 5 passage, I wanted to ask about verse eighteen. Since this is often used by those who teach o.s.a.s., I wanted to make sure I understood it. When John says "no one born of God sins (or goes on sinning)" is he saying that truly committed believers continue on in the faith? As in, this is an affirmation that believers do have to keep believing so that if a believer falls away, they are no longer born again? That has always been my impression because to give oneself over to a lifestyle of sin is idolatry which hardens the heart and kills faith because it is a rejection of Jesus Christ. Just as how no one can serve two masters (you cannot serve God and money simultaneously), so you cannot serve God and sin and expect to remain a believer. And idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven.

Basically, it seems to me as if verse eighteen is saying those with a lasting faith will endure to the end, while apostates (who were genuine believers at one point) aren't born again (because they have given their life over to sin), a strike against the extreme side of eternal security. I know it is true that spiritual rebirth begins at salvation (the moment a person receives Christ). But would it be correct to say that our spiritual rebirth is completed once we die with faith intact? Those who fall away (even though they were born again for a time) were not born again in the full sense because their spiritual rebirth was never completed since they died in unbelief. Would this be correct?

Some have offered the view that verse eighteen is just talking about the status of a believer walking in the Spirit in fellowship with God and one who is not doing that. In other words, they would say John is comparing two believers. Believers having fellowship with God in the power of His Spirit will not sin, while those who do not walk in fellowship by the power of His Spirit will sin. I believe that is part of the answer but it seems John is taking things further than that. Is he not saying that truly committed believers (as those who endure in their faith to the end) will not become unbelievers (apostatize)?

In Christ,

Response #3: 

You're most welcome, my friend.

As to 1st John 5:18, here is how I translate the verse:

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [against apostasy], and [so] the evil one is not [able to] lay hold of him.
1st John 5:18

In terms of your question, in the first part of the verse where it says "is born [again]", what we have here is an attributive participial phrase in the perfect tense, meaning, a bit more literally, "the one who is in the state of having been born again". Perfect participles are not usually used in this sense in Greek, so its occurrence is significant. I take this to mean that while a person is presently a believer, continual gross sin will not be a situation which can continue indefinitely – for reasons you intimate and which I have discussed in some detail in the link last sent. Either a believer will push him/herself away from the Lord by preferring a sinful course (resulting in apostasy), or the Lord will not allow such a person to continue disrespecting His wishes and giving a bad witness forever (resulting in the sin unto death). I think we have probably all observed plenty examples of both in our lives.

The second "is born again" is also an attributive participial phrase, but this time it is in the aorist tense with the somewhat literal meaning "the who is born again once and for all" or "the one who was born again" (n.b., the aorist can be timeless in such situations as in the first translation or have antecedent action as in the second). In either case, the second instance is looking at the believer's life as a whole, giving the final verdict, so to speak, after the game is over rather than a play-by-play somewhere in the middle where some other result could potentially occur. I think that is why John was led to use of the perfect tense in the first instance, namely, to head off any such wrong impression as we are discussing (i.e., that once saved it's impossible to revert).

Both of these statements in both participial phrases are true of believers in any case and are only not true for unbelievers; and if a person reverts through apostasy then he/she is not a believer but an unbeliever, and so these statements would then not apply to them. As with other statements in 1st John (e.g., 1Jn.3:6 NKJV: "Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him." ; 1Jn.3:9 NKJV: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God."), this verse you ask about gives the divine "job description" of the believer. It is absolute because we are meant to follow the Spirit absolutely; but of course none of us does, and that is why we also have 1st John 1:8-10 and 2:1:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10 NKJV

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1st John 2:1 NKJV

[Hyper-] Calvinism also looks at the end state of the believer but removes free will and the possibility of status changing through one's own volition in the meantime; the correct approach is to recognize that "all this" is in the plan of God from the beginning, but that God has incorporated all such decisions – that we are discussing and which result in the end state of everyone – into His perfect plan.

Thus, John is given to describe salvation as a positive thing in the end state here rather than footnote the potential of it being lost in the crucible of life. Everything he says in this verse is true for believers who do persevere, and not at all contradictory to the fact that some give up on their faith and apostatize back into a state of unbelief (which, of course, is a subject well-covered throughout the Bible).

[Original] Calvinism sought to de-emphasize (not necessarily deny it as hyper-Calvinism does) this truth because Calvin and his followers were combating a Roman Catholic church which had everyone's salvation "on pins and needles" depending on works of supererogation which "paid for sins" approved by pope and priests (and essentially taking the cross out the mix entirely); positing a salvation which is immune to such vagaries was a powerful antidote, and fine as far as it went . . . with scripture. But modern-day hyper-Calvinists want to say, for nothing more than to support their doctrinal positions in obstinacy (as far as I can see), that there is in effect no free will after we believe, that salvation cannot be lost for all truly saved, and that for all who appear to be apostates, well, they were never saved in the first place. Besides being antithetical to the entire purpose of our creation, namely, to glorify the Lord not only through our initial but also through our continued response to His truth, these false principles are nowhere supported in scripture – and certainly not in this passage we just discussed.

And, yes, you are correct: an analogous issue which supports the above when rightly understood is the way that scripture describes believers as "saved", "being saved", and "destined to be saved" in the end (see the link on these three facets of salvation in scripture).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Thanks! Ok, so I did understand verse eighteen. Always good to be sure. This was all extremely helpful. Regarding the phrase "Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him," I've seen your explanation of this passage and it still isn't clear to me. Could you explain it to me? I want to say it means the same thing as the passage we just discussed ( 1 John 5:18) but the phrase "has neither seen Him nor known Him" throws me off. It sounds as if it is talking about in this life, not after death in the next. Is the word "sins" being used in the case of an apostate?

Response #4: 

You mean 1st John 3:6? There are a number of verses in 1st John which, out of context and without understanding John's method (1Jn.3:9 is another one), can make it seem to a casual reader as if no true believer sins. But we know that's not the case from 1st John itself (e.g., 1Jn.1:8-10; 2:1).

On 1st John 3:6 (and here is a link to one place where I discuss the verse), the present tense "sins" represents repeated action here (as also with 1Jn.3:9; cf the NIV translation of 1Jn.3:6: "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him"), and "the one abiding in Him" represents the believer in fellowship with the Lord; no one in fellowship with the Lord is sinning by definition because sin puts us out of fellowship with the Lord and requires confession for restoration of fellowship (this is the theme of the first chapter of 1st John). We could paraphrase the verse as follows: "No one in fellowship with the Lord can be sinning because sinning puts a believer out of fellowship with Him; anyone who is sinning is acting like an unbeliever, as if he has never seen the Lord or known anything about Him – just like an unbeliever". In the second half of the verse we have perfect tenses for "seen" and "known" so these express states of being just as in the previous verse we were discussing.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Yes, 1 John 3:6. I don't mean to sound dense (I've understood everything you've said but just want to be extra sure) but how is 1 John 3:6 related to 1 John 5:18? Are you saying verse eighteen describes apostates (those who keep sinning) and those out of fellowship with Christ (believers and unbelievers both)? So 1 John 3:6 is strictly talking about believers out of fellowship only and (and not apostate unbelievers)? Would that be the difference between these two passages?

Response #5: 

As to "how is 1 John 3:6 related to 1 John 5:18": I don't think they are saying exactly the same things at all – which is why I was a little surprised that you brought up the former in the context of talking about the latter.

"Would that be the difference between these two passages?" They need to be discussed and interpreted each on their own; they both talk about sinning but they approach the issue in different ways.

1st John 3:6 is a "job description" for believers which is true of all believers in fellowship: we are walking in a holy, sinless way as long as we are in fellowship with the Lord (and whenever we fall out, which is often, we need to confess our sin/sins and get back on track).

1st John 5:18 is a positional assessment of believers: in the end, we who persevere are saved and do not have our faith submerged by the evil one through giving ourselves entirely over to sin (resulting in apostasy or the sin unto death; see the link).

Sinning is apropos of both since if we are sinning we are not "doing our job" (1Jn.3:6), nor are we behaving consonant with our eternal status but actually endangering it (1Jn.5:18).

This is John's purpose in writing these passages, after all, namely, to impress upon believers – in his own way under the inspiration of the Spirit – that sin is inimical 1) to the Christian witness and our relationship with the Lord; 2) to our spiritual growth and possibly even our salvation.

Anyone interpreting 1st John needs to always keep those main points in mind, otherwise, because it is not an easy book to understand without a good deal of "elbow grease" and prior correct understanding of doctrinal theology, it is very easy to lose the forest for the trees.

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.
1st John 2:1a NKJV

THAT is the main point of 1st John – and of both of these verses.

Here's a pair of links on that:

1st John: Text and Interpretation

Sinlessness and 1st John.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hi Bob,

Your take on that entire passage [Isaiah 28:9-13] in this weeks post ["Old Testament Interpretation XIX"] was a brand new perspective for me. Thank you. since Is.28:10 is the way I've always learned, I took it point blank without delving deeper. I'll have to brood on that.

In considering David and Bathsheba, I've often wondered if some past sin of mine is responsible for ______? I know it's unanswerable, but it still troubles me from time to time. Given the pain of ___, I can only see it as punishment.

Another question not related to this week's post is: what is the original meaning of "high places?" I recently read 2 Kings 17:9 and it jumped out at me. From that, I understand that a "high place" is anyplace where idols or alters are set up. Before I get off in the weeds, is that a correct understanding?

I appreciate your weekly posts. Thank you.

In our Lord,

Response #6: 

Don't even think that way, my friend!

1) David committed murder and adultery, even though he was promised to be in the line of the Messiah; the Lord could certainly not let that child, the one born of murder and adultery, become part of the line of Jesus Christ. But He did allow the next child born to the couple to become great in his own day and next in the line of glory that led to Jesus (i.e., Solomon).

2) God's discipline in something like this is and was swift, and this death of the baby was predicted to David along with all the other discipline that came his way, making it crystal clear so as not to have to guess about it.

3) For David and for us, God is a loving Father, not a vindictive pagan god (Heb.12:2ff.). He loves us so much He sacrificed His own dear Son Jesus for us. When He disciplines us, it is not for some sort of sick retribution but for our good, to teach us to do right and stay away from wrong for our own good – exactly as we did/should have taught and disciplined our own children. We certainly wouldn't wait till our child was college age, e.g., to scourge him/her for some offense committed in junior high school – as if we were lurking and just biding our time. We love our kids – and God loves us. God is not an accountant, moreover, and if He were, we could never pay for our least sin. But Jesus paid for them all on the cross.

As I often say, guilt is the devil's ace trump and he plays it whenever he can. We all have done things we regret. Horrible events that occur much later are not the result of long past sins for which Jesus died and for which we have long ago received whatever corrective discipline we had coming – for our good, not to break our hearts. Never forget:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
Psalm 103:9-13 NIV

On "high places", yes, this was what those venues are in the Old Testament. It seems that even believers (weak ones) thought to worship or sacrifice to the Lord in such places as well, but that was never authorized by the Word. And these activities also served to blur the line between idolatry and worship of the one, true God.

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:  


Response #7: 

I doubt any good will come for you from pursing this attempt to make amends, but a lot of bad things might happen from getting involved with those people again after such a long time merely out of guilt feelings (and I would like to protect you from that).

When we sin, we sin against the Lord (Ps.51:4). And we are told then to confess our sins to Him (1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.32:5; Matt.6:12; Lk.11:4).

I don't know of any scripture which suggests that we need to confess to third parties who may have been damaged by what we have done, especially in the distant past. We repent of our actions and we confess to the Lord, ideally very soon after we err, and then we endure any loving discipline He sends our way as a result and we move on with our lives for Jesus Christ, resting in His mercy – not wallowing in our own guilt. Guilt about past actions is the lever the devil likes to pull to manipulate us. We have to have confidence that the Lord forgives us just as He says He does (see previous citations), and not rely on some action we take afterwards to "make it right". We can never "make it right" – but Jesus did: He died for it (whatever "it" is) and that is why we can be forgiven.

It is of course important to realize that any sin, and especially sins which turn us inside out as in this case, are deadly serious and highly detrimental to our walk with the Lord. So if He is gracious to let something pass without dire consequences, we should be very grateful . . . and determine never ever to get close to that particular "hot stove" ever again.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it (i.e., the goal). But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:  


Response #8: 

You're very welcome.

I am praying for you.

Keep in mind that in the Christian life we are usually either going forward or backward. The way forward is the way of spiritual growth, not only reading the Bible and praying, but also learning truth through a good ministry, believing it and applying it. When we do the latter consistently, we do find ourselves drawing closer to the Lord; when we don't . . .

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:  


In Romans 12:18 it says to be at peace if it is possible as much depends on you.

Peacebleness with other people would include our interactions and reconciliation seeking.

What does Paul mean though by "as much depends on you" what is dependent on us?


Response #9: 

It's a critically important qualification! We can't control other people. I think it was Trotsky who said something like "You may not want war, but war wants you". In other words, just because a country, the Ukraine, for instance, doesn't want war and greatly prefers peace doesn't mean that there is necessarily anything they can do to prevent the former in favor of the latter since it doesn't depend entirely on them.

Similarly, we can do some reasonable things to be at peace with others, believers in particular can, treating others well and avoiding things that unnecessarily lead to strife. But there are times when the evil one may intervene despite our best efforts. Think of Paul being harassed to the breaking point in Philippi. If I am nice to someone, that doesn't mean that he/she won't, for reasons beyond my control, dislike me and start a quarrel with me. We should avoid that situation as far as possible (Prov.17:14), but it is not always possible. Staying away from people who are ornery as much as we can is one good way to fulfill the "as far as it depends on you", but sometimes we are stuck in situations where it is not possible (i.e., family, work, on a long bus ride, e.g.).

One thing that would run counter to this is trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear. That is to say, if we have a situation where person X is not willing to be reasonable or accept an apology or the like, then it is best to stay away and leave it to the Lord. Getting involved there is to fail to see that this is a case where it does NOT "depend on you" and can only be healed by the Lord if and when said person decides to get right with Him.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Doesn't "as far as it depends on you" simply mean how much effort we are willing to put into seeking reconciliation? How determined, how committed?

Response #10:

Not at all. If scripture gives a command, it's very clear. Qualifications like this one you ask about don't mean "do it if you want" but "do it if you can" – and you may not be able to because it might not "depend on you" but on the other person, for example, regardless of how "committed" you might be.

Question #11:  

In Hebrews 12:14 you had mentioned that you translate with all people as among all.

I don't know anything about translating can you go into a bit more detail as to why among is more appropriate than with?

Where Paul talks about being if possible be peaceable with all does he use the same word which you translate as among there as well.


Response #11: 

Pursue peace [along] with everyone, and sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14

The question is in this passage "with whom?" are we to pursue peace? It is certainly biblical that having peaceful relations with everyone is a good and a desirable thing, so, if one understands "pursue" here in that sense, i.e., desiring it and doing reasonable things to promote it – without weighing it down with all manner of things that are actually contrary to a peaceful walk with the Lord (such as inanely seeking to right long past wrongs by looking up people from the past and reconciling with them, someone you cut off in traffic back in 1982, for example) – then understanding the passage in the other way would at least not be contrary to what scripture teaches overall.

However, I do think that this passage is speaking about our pursuing peace with God, not man (see the link). Compare:

So now that we have been justified by faith, let us take hold of the peace [we have] with God [the Father] through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
2nd Timothy 2:22 NIV

The word translated "pursue" in the second quote above is the same verb as in Hebrews 12:14, and the phrase translated "along with" is the same preposition as in that other passage too. But here, it is clear that the "with" doesn't mean "peace with" someone else as the object of that pursuit, because, for one thing, it is parallel to faith and we cannot have "faith with" others in that way as the object since God is the object of our faith. So in the case above – and the one you're asking about – it is preferable to understand "in company with" (i.e., seeking peace with God in company with other believers who help us with that through the proper functioning of our spiritual gifts).

Yes we desire peace and love with our brethren, but also with God, and He is the One who is the object of our pursuit in the verse above and also, in my opinion, in Hebrews 12:14. That is clear in the context in Hebrews where the subject of the chapter is our relationship with the Lord – learning to accept discipline and not wanting to fall short of His grace – rather than a discussion of our relationships with other believers.

Reconciliation in the Bible is all about restoring us to peace with God through the cross by His grace in Jesus Christ and our acceptance of it through faith in Him. That is the biblical emphasis (see the link), and thus the main focus of all of these verses as well.

(14) For [Jesus] Himself is our peace, for He has made both [Jews and gentiles] one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition, that is, the enmity, (15) by discharging the Law of the commandments and its requirements with His [own] body, so that He might re-create the two into one new Man by making [this] peace, (16) and might reconcile both in one Body to God through His cross, having by means of it abolished the enmity [between God and mankind]. (17) For when He had come (i.e., the 1st advent), He proclaimed the gospel of peace to you who were far away [from God], and peace to those who were near. (18) For it is through Him that we both have our access to the Father by means of one Spirit.
Ephesians 2:14-18

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Does it make sense to say pursue the peace of God with all, or all men?

That doesn't make sense. How can a person pursue personal peace with God, with all. It is personal and not with all.?

Response #12: 

As to "That doesn't make sense" – maybe not in English. English and Greek are different languages with different idioms. Consider, however:

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
2nd Timothy 2:22 NIV

This phrasing is identical to what we have at Hebrews 12:14, and we know for a fact that it doesn't mean "pursue . . . faith . . . with all" in the sense of having faith with others. No. It means "pursue [your] faith with/in God".

The "with all" means "just as all your brethren are / should be doing". In fact, this is what the prepositional phase meta usually means, namely, to do something "in company with" others. If we wanted to say "pursue peace [so as to have peace] with others" as the object of that pursuit (rather than God), that is much more commonly in Greek the preposition pros plus the accusative (rather than meta plus the genitive).

Given the above and given that the context of Hebrews chapter 12 is all about our relationship with the Lord and nowhere in that context talking about our relationship with other believers, I stand by this interpretation. After all, in that very verse, Hebrews 12:14, it says as the secondary object of that same verb, to pursue "sanctification without which no one will see the Lord". That is definitely God-ward, and that also argues for "pursue peace" to be God-ward as well.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

[omitted] Is preaching hell a part of the gospel?

Response #13: 

You're most welcome. I'm happy to post your previous testimony – it might be a year or so until I get to this theme, however.

Deliverance from sin, death and judgment into life eternal is definitely part of the "good news" of salvation! The problem is that we ought only to have to tell people the positive part about salvation in our witnessing (not the "positive through removal of the negative"), since everyone knows via natural revelation that they are mortal and will die, that they are sinners and not perfect, but that there is a perfect God who will hold them to account when this life is over (see the link: "Natural Revelation").

Anyone who says they don't believe these fundamental realities of sin, death and judgment is either lying or has blotted out through the hardening of their hearts these basic truths taught by God through the way the world has been made. So for example when Paul and company evangelized Asia minor, though people flocked to them, not everyone did even in spite of the great miracles and good news they were commissioned to do and proclaim. In our country, you'd have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about Jesus Christ and the cross. Now you might not appreciate the finer points, but if you were moved by knowledge of the fact that you were going to die (and that being imperfect nothing good awaited without some sort of intervention), then early on in life you would probably have turned to Christ.

Sometimes it does take longer, but for all who are eventually going to search their way to the truth (even if there are many bumps along the way), the gospel is readily available here in the USA. So while I understand wanting loved ones and dear friends to be saved, I also have not seen "intervention witnessing" which stressed hell fire ever have much success after it becomes clear – and it usually becomes clear very early on – that the person is not interested. Can they become interested? Certainly. But it usually takes the Lord moving in their lives to bring that about – and they do have to be willing to be saved.

So I always recommend 1) prayer (our prayers are heard and are very important), and 2) the witness of the life: we can make the gospel attractive by the kind of Christians we are. People do notice that we are hoping for something better and living accordingly. And that can only come from God.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1st Peter 3:15 NIV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

It seems that no matter how much I hear about how much God hates sin, how much I need to repent, its not enough to convince me. I'm currently in egregious blasphemy and idolatry, and im worried I may have committed the unforgivable sin and/or irreversibly fallen away, or are close to them. There's this will deep down in me saying what im doing is wrong, but my heart forces me to reject it. I feel like I WANT to deny Christ, no matter how much I know its wrong.
Please pray for me

Response #14: 

Life is all about choices. And life is very short. On the other side, there is either bliss . . . or a horrible fate that can't even be described for its awfulness. No experience or benefit this life could provide is worth the lake of fire. On the other hand, no one can as yet appreciate how wonderful New Jerusalem will be. The sword which divides the two is faith.

"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 I beg you NOT to throw away your faith. There is nothing more valuable. There is nothing more consequential.

I understand the pressures of sin. What you may not have factored in is that sin cannot be combated by defensive measures alone. It takes spiritual growth to win the victory. You have to provide yourself with the tools, the arms necessary for such defense (Eph.6:10-18), and that requires accessing good Bible teaching, reading, learning, believing and applying the truth.

God forgives ALL sin when we confess (1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.32:5); moving past our addiction to it takes commitment: to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him . . . through spiritual growth, progress and production.

I commend Ichthys for this purpose as well as Bible Academy.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

I cannot thank you enough. I keep falling into unbelief from hardness of heart and I'm tormented that I may be irredeemable. Something I've noticed that makes me doubt we can lose salvation, is this:

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
1 John 3:9 ESV

Most translations say "practices sin", arguing the Greek present tense means a continuous action. But the tense by itself, without any extra words or indicators that it's continuous(which this verse does not have) cannot mean a continuous action or practice. An accurate translation would be that no one born of God sins. Period. Now this seems to be in conflict with Hebrews 6 4-8. The Greek of the passage cannot be clearer when it speaks of true born-again believers. It very much speaks of a bad fate that can befall them. And yet 1 John 3 says this can't be from sin, because those born of Him CANNOT sin(Greek οὐ ποιε , cannot sin)

4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
I John 3:4 - 9 NKJV

Have we found a contradiction in God's word? Far from it. You see, there's one view that I've found among all of them that reconciles all of this: The Free Grace view. It sees Hebrews 6 as speaking of either a loss of rewards for unfaithfulness, or a hardening of heart that causes them to be unable to mature in the Faith from then on. I personally find the latter more convincing.

1 John 3, according to this view, speaks of the new nature within a Christian. Basicly the regenerated New person, the spirit that is unhappy with sin after salvation, cannot sin because it hates the sin and is born of the Holy Spirit.

Unless we just throw out and deny Hebrews, 1 John, or even both as Scripture as some have suggested(which would be beyond absurd), or some other view that can make sense of all this comes up, I see no other way to reconcile all this.

Of course, this is all just what I personally have collected. What are your thoughts?

Response #15: 

You're most welcome.

As to your translation of the first part of 1st John 3:9 as "cannot", that is not defensible in the least (we'll talk about the second half of the verse below). You should also consider that a little earlier in the same letter (keeping in mind that chapter divisions are a modern invention of convenience and did not exist in the original epistle), John says the following:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1st John 2:1 ESV

John wouldn't have to write to keep his readers from sinning if sin for believers were impossible; and he wouldn't have to comfort his readers by reassuring them that "if we sin" Christ is our Advocate, if it never happened.

(8) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10 ESV

This is also clear. It is also very dangerous for Christians who are concerned, for example, about 1st John 3:9, to claim as a defense mechanism that what they are doing is "not sin". That is self deception contrary to the truth (v.8 above). And if we were to make the claim that we haven't / didn't / aren't sinners and haven't / didn't / aren't sinning, then scripture here says that in so doing we "make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us" (v.10 above). But "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" – so that there is a solution for the sins believers commit: confession (v.9 above).

Jesus died for all of our sins. Therefore sin is no longer the issue: faith is the issue. We are to believe in Jesus and follow Jesus in faith: faith is how we were saved by grace, and by grace through faith we continue to advance spiritually (or should: Phil.3:16). Yes we are to turn away from sin, but victory over sin comes from spiritual growth, not from agonizing over things we've done in the past (and pretending we're not doing what we're doing here and now – much of what we think or say may be sinful, e.g., even if that is not obvious to us in the early stages of spiritual growth).

If you want to know more about this, there is a great volume of work on the subject available at Ichthys. Best place to start would be the prior email responses on the subject (you can browse the long list or check out the subject listings at the links); I also recommend Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: the biblical study of Sin (at the link).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

What does the "cannot sin" mean in the original language then?

Response #16: 

In the Greek, in the first part of the verse we have hamartian ou poiei.

This does not mean "cannot sin". A somewhat literal translation – which is not necessarily the most accurate type of translation in terms of conveying meaning – would be "is not making/producing sin". Greek does not have variation of aspect in the present tense stem the way English does. I.e., we can say "sins, is sinning, does sin", but it's all the same in Greek (Greek does distinguish aspect in the past tenses as English does as well, but also in places where English does not, however, just not in the present tense which we are discussing here). Also, this is not the normal way to say "sin" or "not sin". As we see in the first chapter of 1st John, the most common way to express things is by using the verb hamartano instead of using a periphrasis with the verb poieo combined with the noun for "sin" as a substantive as John does here in chapter three. So this is an unusual thing to say and way to say it. That is no doubt deliberate. It would have been very easy to say "impossible to sin" in both parts of the verse, but that is not what John does. We don't get the "cannot" until the second part. Also, in that second part, the infinitive "unable to sin" is in the present stem, not the aorist. Here we do have clear verbal aspect, and it is progressive in meaning. So an expanded translation could be "is not able to be sinning". Putting all this together – and especially in light of the statements in the first two chapters where clearly believers do sin and are forgiven when they confess – I think that the ESV does a good job on this verse:

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
1st John 3:9 ESV

This is clearly what the verse really means: God will not allow continuation in a life or lifestyle of sin by those who belong to Him. And all who truly do belong to Him do come back to Him in repentance – or suffer the consequences outlined in the previous email (see the link).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

There's people trying to defend the present tense not necessarily meaning continuous. I need you to debunk this article

Response #17: 

It's not a question of "must mean" from the Greek; it's a question of "may mean". We determine "what it means" from a combination of the actual original language and the context. Many very good translations express things exactly as I have expressed them for you. They are not "making it up" and neither am I. So this article sets up a straw-man and knocks it down . . . in a purely rhetorical defense of its own position.

Question #18:  

I am in constant pain, mentally and spiritually now that I know the Truth. The harsh reality is, I was a believer and fell away. I denied Christ just for some stupid fetish and now whenever I try to enjoy some game or whatever, I can barely resist the pull....to actually worship one of the characters. My willfully wickedness throughout the years has caused me to become badly mentally ill, which is why my mind and heart seem to be ok with such madness as worship and doing things in the names of beings never meant to even be real. I'm also emotionally numb(for the most part) and things that should cut me to the core don't even faze me. I just care about my agony and trying to be rid of it too much to care about others or even God. I do often try to help people, knowing it's the right thing to do, but often only after a fit of petty carnality in my heart. I also have no capacity to forgive. I've endured so much trauma and destruction of the soul, I can no longer see good in people who further it, by accident or otherwise. It's like I don't even truly want Christ or anything God related anymore. I want to die but I know its wrong for me to kill myself. Even the threat of Hell falls on deaf ears. I'm always in so much pain, soul being annihilated again and again, almost daily, I can't imagine a worse Hell than the one I live. Even knowing there somehow is a worse doesn't faze me. The pain blinds me much i don't care.

Is there any hope for me?

Response #18: 

The prodigal son came back – and was received with open arms.

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:22-23 NKJV

"Is there any hope for me?" Amen there is! All who put their faith in Jesus Christ are saved (Jn.3:16-18). Jesus Christ is your hope – and the hope of the entire world.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27 NKJV

If you are far away, then God wants you to come back close, come back from your far country, come back to Him.

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 our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

I read your Q&A on loss of salvation on your website and it answered most of my questions. I'm still worried about some things. You see, I doubt I was ever really saved to begin with. Sure, after I was supposedly saved I could no longer find joy in sin, but I never really repented of my sin when I came to Christ. Just in case, what do I do to be saved?

Response #19: 

If you are a believer, you should know it. God certainly knows:

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
2nd Timothy 2:19 NKJV

It is not uncommon for believers who have wandered to doubt their salvation, doubt that they were ever saved, etc. That is a function of being far from the Lord. To be honest, I don't see unbelievers ever being concerned about that or for their spiritual state and whether they are or are not saved. That is a tick that only believers exhibit (in my estimation). So I would judge from what you have told me that you do belong to Christ. If so – and since so – then your top priority ought to be to draw close to Him again. That is accomplished NOT by self-flagellation but by spiritual growth.

So start reading your Bible, start praying, and most of all start accessing good Bible teaching consistently, believe the truth of what you are receiving and begin applying it to your life. That is the only R/x there is for spiritual recovery. Ichthys is available to you for that purpose; I also recommend Bible Academy (at the link).

If you are concerned about sin, confess it to the Lord. He forgives you when you do (1Jn.1:9).

If you are convinced you are not a believer, then believe. It is as simple as that (see the link).

And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Acts 16:30-31 NKJV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L

Question #20:  

You say that we have to always push forward without end or taking a break, fighting intensely in our spirit every moment. How am I to survive this? I don't want to return to Christ if it means more of the same, no rest, nothing but endless fighting, fighting, fighting, without a second to catch my breath. I know God us supposed to give you the power to do it, but aren't we supposed to have rest in Christ in this life?

Response #20:

We who belong to Christ are to be at rest at all times – and that is possible if we are growing and doing what the Lord wants us to do (see the link). It's not impossible at all.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Mark 11:28-30 NIV

So Jesus tells us that it is doable to follow Him, not impossible.  As to "I don't want to return to Christ if . . ." -- and the alternative would be?! We can't put conditions on the Lord. Blessedly, to be saved, all you need to do is trust – and keep that faith in Him solid until the end.

Question #21:  

Thank you. Also, if a believer commits suicide, does that mean they're damned, or is this a case of the sin unto death?

Response #21: 

I wouldn't recommend it!

We do know that Saul killed himself – albeit under duress, critically if not fatally wounded in battle and not wanting to fall into enemy hands – but he is heaven (1Sam.28:19).

The real issue is what is going on in the person's heart. Anyone who takes their own life clearly has zero regard for the will of God. That is indicative of very weak faith at a minimum. So it is often the case that believers revert through apostasy and then take their lives. Such individuals are lost, not because of their final act but because of the spiritual turn that preceded it.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Im worried once again I may have lost salvation. I haven't been continually believing. My mental illness makes me go crazy often, and I end up calling some imaginary entity that I know isn't real "Lord" or otherwise worshiping them, essentially denying Christ as the only Lord. Its not just mental illness. I've come to willfully embrace it even knowing its wrong. Deep down there's this part of me that doesn't want it, but most of my will and all of my heart and mind want it. Reason won't work on my titanium heart. I've lost the ability to feel genuinely bad about stuff and to appreciate morality. I'm on medication to combat this, but at this point they won't help too much. I've pretty much become a sociopath towards God. Even when God tries to help me out, I hard-heartedly reject it because it means leaving my comfort sins that I don't want to leave along with the ones I want to, like the idol worship

Response #22: 

As I always tell everyone, believers have been called to forget the past for the sake of spiritual growth and forward progress (Phil.3:13). We repent, confess, move on.

As I also always tell everyone, spiritual growth solves all problems. But we have to commit to it and actually do it.

As to the unbelieving perspective, at the last judgment, unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire to be tormented forever apart from the presence and the blessing of God, whereas believers will experience bliss for all eternity. Why anyone who understands this would not throw themselves on the mercy and goodness of God is beyond me. But we do all have free will. That is why we are here in this world.

So if you are not saved, believe in Jesus, put your trust in Him as the only Way to eternal life.

If you are a believer, nothing in this life is truly important . . . apart for doing the will of God. That has eternal benefits, whereas everything else down here is just so much lust, dust and rust. Confess your sin, repent of your past behavior, that is, turn away from it and towards the good (spiritual growth), and get moving spiritually. God is willing to forgive you and heal you – but you have to be willing to accept His help.

I'll say a prayer for you.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:  

What are your views on video games, TV, and other forms of entertainment? Personally, I believe God has been leading me away from it all because I was addicted to it and it caused me to sin horribly. Also, I have some objections to the idea that we don't lose salvation until our faith dies. Revelation has a warning that whoever adds or takes away from the book will be immediately cut off from God. There are also clear warnings that people who do certain sins will not enter God's Kingdom, period. I see the Bible teaching that at a certain point of uncontested and unrepentant sin, God will cut you off regardless of if you still believe or not.

Response #23: 

As to "What are your views on video games, TV, and other forms of entertainment" – I think this is a "fine tuning" issue for believers who are committed to spiritual growth. We don't get to heaven by "working our way" there, by doing this and not doing that. It's a matter of faith. Once we believe, once we commit to following Christ, the Spirit will help us organize our lives in the best way to serve our Master.

"I have some objections to the idea that we don't lose salvation until our faith dies." This is a concern for believers, not for unbelievers. But even so, John 3:18 makes it clear that believers are saved and unbelievers are not (and see the link).

"Revelation has a warning that whoever adds or takes away from the book will be immediately cut off from God." That's not exactly what Revelation 22:18-19 says. In any case, you haven't done this. No believer in Christ would dream of doing so. Only an unbeliever would do so. So there is no contradiction.

"There are also clear warnings that people who do certain sins will not enter God's Kingdom, period." That is patently untrue. Christ died for all sins and we believers are forgiven when we confess. This is not a brief for sin and especially not for gross sin. Sin is very problematic AND it leads away from the Lord. The more and the worse, the more and farther away it leads. That is why sin is connected to apostasy. NOT because sin causes a loss of salvation directly but because it results in the weakening and eventually even to the death of faith (cf. Jas.1:13-16). The passages you are probably thinking of do prove that salvation is not "once saved always saved", but the mechanics are as above. Happy to discuss particular passages you've misconstrued (see prior link).

"I see the Bible teaching that at a certain point of uncontested and unrepentant sin, God will cut you off regardless of if you still believe or not." Since the Bible emphatically does NOT teach this, it doesn't matter what you see or do not see.

I will say that I am unwilling to stand in the middle between you and yourself any longer in your determination to convict yourself. I've given you plenty of truth to chew on – and there is all you need at Ichthys. But you don't seem to be interested in anything but going around in circles.

I will say one last prayer for you, but then you are on your own. You will have to decide which way you want to go: forward with the truth, or backward in confusion.

In Jesus the Savior of all men, especially believers.

Bob L.

Question #24:  

Thank you for your insight in all these emails. Can we discuss John 15 1-14?

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
John 15 1-14

Can you explain how this isn't a threat for people who still believe but are in sin? I'm not denying it could be true that this isn't necessarily a threat to salvation. I just need a good explanation. Also please pray for me. I need help dedicating my life to Christ. My wicked heart and insane mind want me to serve idols as if they are Lord, even knowing they aren't real and wouldn't we worthy in the slightest even if they were.

Response #24: 

Staying "in Christ" is remaining a believer. When we exit this life, we do so either as believers or unbelievers, and that determines our eternal status – because after death, there can be no changing. It doesn't matter if someone was an unbeliever all their life if at the point of dying they have a true "death bed conversion" and commit to Jesus Christ; if so, they are saved. And it wouldn't matter if a person had been a believer for seventy years if, just before the Lord's return, said person rejects Christ and takes the mark of the beast: said person will be blasted off the earth at the Lord's return in the "baptism of fire" and is condemned (cf. Ezek.18:1-32).

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Colossians 1:21-23 NKJV

John 15:1ff. and the passage above and all such passages do indeed demonstrate that perseverance is required for ultimate salvation. There is no "once saved always saved"; similarly, there is no "once sinned ever lost" or "once lost always lost". Life in this world is a struggle, but believers who persevere through the grace of God through allowing Him to do the work for them, through obedience to the truth in spiritual growth, progress and production, are saved; only unbelievers are lost (Jn.3:18). Note in your passage that branches which are not doing their job are "pruned"; only those which refuse to respond at all are burned up – and that "burning up" is a reference to the last judgment and consignment to the lake of fire. We know that branches can be "grafted back in" (Rom.11:23). But all this happens in life – after death, there is no more alteration of status.

So regardless of where a person is at spiritually in THIS life, believers should take care to persevere, to grow, to draw closer to the Lord – because we have not "arrived" yet (Phil.3:12; cf. Phil.2:12). And anyone who is not saved still has a chance to belong to Jesus Christ . . . as long as there is life, there is hope.

One last thing. When you attribute things to your "wicked heart", you should understand that "you are you". Whatever you allow yourself to think, whatever you allow yourself to feel, whatever you allow yourself to say or do, these are your decisions. People who are in the habit of making bad ones do have to fight hard to break bad habits and establish good ones – as in being addicted. But the first step towards progress is taking responsibility for our own thoughts and words and deeds.

I will say a prayer for you.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #25:  

Thank you. Please pray for me, that I can renounce all forms of the occult and truly follow God. I've forgotten how to pray, and I act like my prayers themselves have some kind of supernatural power, when the Bible says it's God who rewards our faith in what He already wills by answering our prayers. Also I have an obsession with witchcraft. I seem to try to justify doing it in my mind alone because I know a spell won't actually be cast that way, so maybe God is ok with it....please snap me out of this. Also, in case any spell or ritual actually did something, do you believe God will undo any evil supernatural acts of mine if I truly repent and ask Him to? Also, how exactly do you believe on Christ? What does it mean to have saving Faith?

Response #25: 

Please stay far, far, far away from anything having to do with the occult. There is no power in it in truth – except to the extent that the devil deigns to involve himself (his minions) in it, and because it involves indirect and direct idolatry, the rejection of the Lord and His truth. As with all other sins, the solution is to repent and confess – and NOT go back to it.

Believing is trusting. It is using your free will to decide to put your faith, your belief, your trust in Jesus Christ. There is nothing "magic" about it. It is a decision you make in your heart, to follow Christ as your Lord and Master, knowing that He died for your sins as the God-man (see BB 4B, section II, "How to be Saved").

I will pray for you.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #26:  

Are you one of those preachers that deny mental illness is anything but sin and demon possession? I know my issues are also very much spiritual issues, but my emotional numbness, OCD, and depression make it hard for me to seek God.

Response #26: 

I let what I write (and say and do) characterize me and this ministry (see the link).

As to ". . . make it hard for me to seek God", no one said it was easy, only doable:

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV

But . . .

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV

So take heart and engage with spiritual growth. What is hard in the beginning will get easier (if not ever completely easy) as you make progress.

You wrote, about my previous exhortation to get moving in spiritual growth, "I will". I took that to mean that you were going to take responsibility for yourself in this regard. That is important to do. We all have obstacles to overcome – every one of us. I do not make light of yours or fail to understand that they are serious. But nothing is impossible for God – for those who are truly seeking Him.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27:  

Dear Teacher...

...for you have been my teacher for about six months now, but you would have no way of knowing it without my introducing myself!

I have considered emailing you many times over these months - even getting as far as crafting my most pressing question into a lengthy message and having my finger poised over the send button - but the Holy Spirit held my hand. And I am so grateful, for to have reached out to you in that way at that time would have been to continue in the transactional mode of this world, rather than moving toward a deeper connection in the family of Christ.

Though there is much I could write, I have no desire to make my introduction too lengthy! However, the Holy Spirit has moved me to share the following (unedited) journal entry with a couple of key people, now including you. Somehow, it says more about me and my journey in its way than a lengthy chronological chronicle of my life!

“A small sliver of a waning crescent moon to my mind marked the beginning of a new spiritual trajectory a little over two years ago. Though I set out on a journey of following the moon in its course and phases - and ran the risk of actually worshiping it (if not, in fact, dabbling my toes in that water!) - it was not the moon drawing me...

I don’t know when I was ‘saved,’ but that doesn’t matter to me anymore. Once upon a time, I looked (and longed) for that ‘moment’ of conversion - even jumping through various experiences to try to make it happen - but I now embrace the special quiet assurance that has settled within me from I-know-not-where & I-know-not-when. In a manner not unlike the bond that was gradually formed with my parents over a lifetime of experience, I simply know God is, know His Son has brought me to Him, and know the Holy Spirit hovered over me until He was able to actually reside within me...

For all that seems as though it has always been, and all of the good I can see has been done quite apart from my own effort, I now recognize I can cling to none of it. Each day is the ‘Today’ in which I must live and choose for God, setting aside all I know (or think I know!) about Him and His Way with me to follow Him more closely. I must allow the Holy Spirit to lead me each step of the way, opening myself to His breaking down everything I know (or think I know!) within myself to show me a better way - His Way...

I must choose in each moment stillness with Him rather than busy-ness in the world and become like the moon - reflecting His brightness in a soft, gentle light on those around me.”

I would be remiss if I did not conclude by expressing my deepest gratitude for your ministry. Reading the studies on Ichthys is time well-spent, indeed, and its benefits to this student cannot be adequately articulated!

In our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

Your student

Response #27: 

Very nice to make your acquaintance! Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

Thanks also for sharing your testimony. It really doesn't matter when or how we were saved or whether or not we remember or our memory is correct (my recollections are vague – I was probably only about five years old). What matters is that we belong to Jesus Christ as part of His precious Bride forever, and so share in a perfect unity with each other which is only going to get better and better until we see our dear Lord face to face.

Together forever in New Jerusalem as the Bride of Jesus Christ and part of the eternal family of God.

Please do feel free to write me any time!

In Jesus Christ our Savior.

Bob L.

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