Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Basic Christian Doctrine

THE BIG PICTURE: GOD'S GRACE

Why did God create you? In all that God does he reveals different aspects of his character and nature. In his creation and interaction with people there are many such things he has revealed, such as his holiness and judicial nature. But in his interaction with people, the primary character quality which seems to be the major theme of the Bible - and indeed of the gospel message - is God Graciousness. And in the end people end up either glorifying God's judicial nature by being cast into hell and suffering eternal torment, or glorifying his graciousness by being forgiven of sin and spending eternity in a loving relationship with God.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:16,17
There is no such salvation message for the devil and his angels of whom the Bible says that the everlasting fire was prepared.(Mat 25:41) But in creating people God revealed his graciousness which he hadn't revealed previously in his dealings with the devil and his angels, other than delaying the time of their ultimate condemnation. In view of God's holiness and judicial nature it's difficult even for Christians to grasp the extent of God's graciousness to us that the Bible describes. But it is important for Christians to keep in mind that God's very purpose in creating you is to reveal his graciousness. He does so both by the way he treats you, and how He treats others through you, and by the message of the gospel that you speak to others.

Paul writes concerning his own experience of salvation, "The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life." 1Tim 1:14-16

However while the Christian life is primarily about God's grace, that grace might be greatly devalued unless we have the right perspective concerning God's holiness and his judical nature. Those who have a low view of God's holiness and judicial nature really can't appreciate God's graciousness and may not even recognize it. In fact I think the major reason why there are people who don't believe the gospel is either because they have too low a view of God's holiness and judical nature, or because they can't believe that God could be as gracious as the gospel portrays him. And that while such people may come up with all kinds of objections, I think that these are at the root of their unbelief.

Therefore the Christian life and message are primarily about these three things -


Christian Life and Message Outline

WHAT CONSTITUTES THE GOSPEL MESSAGE:

The fact of sin and God's judicial nature

 
The Person and Works of Christ
Sole Condition for Salvation
Indications of Saving Faith
The Promises of Salvation
(What's good about the good news?)


WHAT CONSTITUTES THE CHRISTIAN LIFE:

The Most Fundamental Aspects of a Christian's relationship with God

The Most Fundamental Characteristics of a Christian:
(These form the basis of one's assurance of salvation) The Most Fundamental Activities of a Christian:

God's Holiness

When faced with the presence of God, the most common reaction is to his outstanding characteristic of holiness.  In Isaiah 6 the seraphim cry out in His presence, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" So Isaiah says: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."  The presence of God brings conviction of sin because of His holiness, which is often underestimated.

God's holiness is that character trait by which he is reckoned separate, especially in regards to that which is evil or untruthful. He is spoken of as "dwelling in unapproachable light" 1Tim 6:16 God's holiness expresses His intolerance of the presence of that which is sinful. And thus to be in a right relationship with Him the issue of sin must be dealt with.

Why is God invisible? Why is he spoken of as being in heaven? Because he is holy. God also expresses his holiness in the Law. For God had Moses build the ark of the covenant to represent his presence on earth and place it in the tabernacle which he also instructed Moses to build. It was placed in a special room in the tabernacle - the Most Holy Place, which had a curtain in front of it. The high priest could only enter the Most Holy Place once a year, and not without blood being offered. Those who tried to approach God in an unauthorized manner were killed. (1Sam 6:19) So also he expresses his holiness through the Law in all the restrictions he places on his chosen people as to what they were to eat, wear, and practically every other area of life. In particular his restrictions concerning keeping the Sabbath day holy reflected his extreme holiness. For he commanded death to any of the people of Israel who even so much as picked up sticks on the Sabbath.

God is holy and demands he be approached only on his terms.


Human Sinfulness


Human sinfulness is such a well established fact it hardly needs mentioning. Ecc 7:20  "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." Even of the redeemed it is written, "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Eph 2:3

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Rom 3:23

Now there are those who say that they are not that bad. They haven't committed some heinous sin. But nonetheless they have missed the mark, which is one of the two Greek words for "sin" in the New Testament, "hamartia". The other "parabasis" means to trespass. The idea is to trespass a boundary. But whether one has violated a law or simply didn't live up to God's standards, all have sinned.

God's standards are generally higher than people imagine. For example did you know that "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1John  3:15  Or how about what Jesus said in Matt 5:28 "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Or concerning remarriage after divorce Jesus said, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery." Luke 16:18 And what of "coveting"? For God commanded, "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s." Ex 20:17

Jesus summarized the Law say to love the Lord you God will all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love you neighbor as yourself. So if you think by the Law you will be saved, you'd better be more than just well behaved. You must love in spirit, not only in letter. Though you think you're good, you must be better. In view of these facts, vain it is to hope to be saved as a matter of compliance to regulations. That option is gone. No one is "good enough" by God's standards. Jesus himself said, "No one is good— except God alone." Mk 10:18 And as such all are under condemnation.


God's Judicial Nature: Part I

 "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God."Eph 5:5

There are two reasons why sinners cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. One reason is because of God's holiness - in that he cannot tolerate living in the presence of sin. He doesn't like being around people who sin. It is not his preference.

But secondly is the issue of justice. For if sin is committed, justice demands that a penalty be paid. And even despite our sinful nature, most people understand this. If someone steals you property, commits adultery with your wife, murders your children, for some reason you would feel that some justice is called for, wouldn't you? Why is that? It's because we are made in the image of God, despite how marred and corrupted that image has become.

God is angry at sin. His anger burns against sinners. "For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." Deut 4:24 For those who don't measure up he says, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" Mt 25:41 It is not the devil who tortures people in hell. It is the LORD who will torture them. Didn't a demon himself say, "What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" Mt 5:7

Thus we read "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Rev 14:10,11

Jesus himself was not ashamed of speaking of people being tormented in hell. In Luke 16 he spoke of a man who simply neglected the needs of he fellow man and ended up in hell where he exclaimed "I am tormented in this flame." Luke 16:24 And so he also mentioned in parable of a servant who owed his master alot, but his master was merciful and forgave his debt. But that servant failed to forgive a fellow servant of the small amount he owed him. When the master heard of it "his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him." Mat 18:34 Jesus goes on to say, "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Mat 18:35 Jesus has no problem with portraying his Father in this manner - as one who will have people thrown into fire and tortured if they don't meet his standards.

So Jesus advised "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched——" Mr 9:43

For God does not overlook sin, but demands justice of every transgression and of everyone who falls short of his standard.


God' Judicial Nature: Part 2

A second aspect of God's judicial nature is that God compensates victims of unjustified suffering. For example he says,
"Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits." Ex 23:6  
"Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow." De 27:19
"It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice." Pr 18:5
"The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." Pr 29:7 
It is not a matter of grace, as if compensating victims of unjustified suffering was optional, but rather obligatory under justice, in the same way as condemning the guilty is obligatory as a matter of justice. This is should be the Christian's answer to those who suffer unjustly. God will compensate such people in some fashion. Because God is just.

These are the two arms of justice: (2Thess 1:6,7)
God is just:
1. He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
2 and give relief to you who are troubled
,
Jesus also suffered as a victim of unjustified suffering.

"Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." 1Peter 2:21-23

In this way Christ atoned for the sins of the world. For having suffered unjustly, God was obligated to compensate him. And in view of who he was and the suffering he endured, justice demanded a huge compensation, namely more than enough to pay for the sins of the world. Thus Jesus atoned for sin by having one arm of God's judicial nature pay off the other arm.


Why Believe Jesus?

Before considering his claims, why should we listen to Jesus at all? What credentials did he have? Speaking to a crowd of thousands of Jews who had witnessed Jesus ministry, Peter stated among other things, "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." Acts 2:22 He goes on to also mention Jesus' death and resurrection from the dead. These are historical facts which they could not deny. Jesus himself said, "The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me." John 10:25, and he said, "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." John 10:37-38, as well as saying, "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves." John 14:11 The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain a record of some of his miracles. His miracles are a part of the "gospel" in that they provide convincing proof of his authenticity, being an essential part of his credentials. And even after his resurrection it says, "After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." Acts 1:3

Faith

As is implied from the previous section, Christian faith is not a blind, irrational faith. It's based on the historic record of Jesus' miracles as passed on to us by eyewitnesses. Faith in Christ is the sole condition for salvation, apart from works.
Eph 2:8,9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

Titus 3:4,5a "When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy."

Rom 4:6-8 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
However saving faith is not simply believing a set of propositions, though propositions are involved. Faith fundamentally means "to trust". Thus it says in the NIV "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Rom 4:4,5 The same Greek word translated "trust" here is elsewhere translated "believe" (pisteuo) or its noun form "faith" (pistis) For these are interchangeable. Fundamentally, to believe in Jesus is to trust in him.

A person who claims to believe Jesus on certain points and disagree with him on others is not trusting in Jesus. Or they are fabricating a "Jesus" in their own mind and don't believe in the Biblical Jesus. Believing in Jesus is much like a child trusting their parents. Though they may not understand all their ideas, yet the child trusts them.

Do you trust in Jesus?


Who did Jesus Claim to be?

Much of Jesus' teachings concerns claims about himself - primary of which was his claim of being the Son of God.  "I said, ‘I am God‘s Son‘" John 10:36 and "my Father‘s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."John 6:40 He declared that belief in himself as the Son of God was central to salvation. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

But what did he mean by "the Son of God"? At the time this phrase was understood to mean that in some sense he was equating himself with God. They said, "You, a mere man, claim to be God." John 10:33 John clarifies this more in the beginning of his gospel saying,

The claim here is that Jesus is not God the Father, but that he was with God the Father and was God in some unspecified sense. And it was through Jesus that all things were made - he himself not having been created, since apart from him nothing was made that has been made. Formerly he did not have a nature of flesh and blood, but took on that additional nature at his birth. No one had ever seen God in the intimate sense in which Jesus had. And thus we find the New Testament revelation of God through Jesus Christ reveals mysteries about God which formerly were hidden or unspoken of in the Old Testament. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" Heb 1:1,2


Jesus as Lord

The gospel declares that Jesus is the LORD spoken of in the Old Testament. For example John 12:40 is a quote of Isaiah 6:10 saying, "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them." Then next verse John 12:41 says "Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him." When we go back to Isaiah chapter 6, this is what Isaiah actually saw in Isaiah 6:1-3 "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."" Thus the gospel writer understood Jesus to be the LORD Almighty.

Note also Hebrews 1:10 He also says (about Jesus), "In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands." The writer of Hebrews is quoting Psalm 102:24,25 which says, "Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands" This is consistent with the gospel of John. Jesus created all things. The LORD Jesus laid the foundations of the earth. He is the one referred to as God in the Psalm.

This was the understanding of who Jesus claims to be. He is the LORD creator, the LORD God of the Old Testament, the LORD Almighty. Thus "Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything." Heb 3:3,4


Jesus as Savior

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" 1Tim 1:15  "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."John 3:17 And thus Jesus said, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." John 12:47 and "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."John 5:32

There are two things we need to be saved from.

 1. In view of God's judicial nature whereby he condemns every act of sin, we need to be saved from the consequences of our having sinned. Namely we have to be saved from the wrath of God expressed in eternal hell fire.
 2. In view of God's holiness whereby he will not have an intimate relationship with anything which has the propensity to sin, we must be saved from our innate sinfulness so that we can live with God forever, never sinning again.
In vain do people take on themselves the task of accomplishing either of these goals. For to do so one ends up either belittling God's judicial nature by pretending that God's wrath is appeased by the meager sacrifices one makes, or belittling God's holiness by pretending that God is content living with people who sin from time to time, or by simply not calling sin for what it is. One can only become right with God by being saved. And that was Jesus' mission - to save sinners.


How Does Jesus Save Us?

First with respect to appeasing God's wrath, he accomplished that by himself being the propitiation for our sins. "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1John 4:10 It would have been unjust for God to simply forgive sin without some kind of penalty being paid. Yet God had been tolerating sin with a view towards the atoning work of Christ. For "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." John 3:23-26 "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."Isaiah 53:5,6

But even when one is forgiven, there is still the issue of being saved from our innate sinfulness so that we may live in the presence of God. So it says of Jesus' role, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Eph 5:25-27 And thus it says of the transforming work of being born of God, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2Cor 5:17 and "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9 (These ideas I will elaborate upon later) "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." Eph 1:4 Thus of those who enter the city God will build it is written, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life." Rev 21:27


What is our part?

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved Acts 16:31

Salvation is not unconditional. It is conditioned upon one putting ones faith in Christ.

The Bible presents it pretty straight forward, and so do I. The Bible presents it as a choice, as a response. Notice also how Peter responds to those who heard his presentation of the gospel and asked, "Brothers, what shall we do?". Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 2:38 and it continues With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Acts 2:40

So when you're asked, "what must I do to be saved?" or "what shall we do?" would you respond differently than the apostles?

"For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.' How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom 10:11-14

And thus salvation is further conditioned upon hearing the message. This makes the preaching of the gospel esssential.

"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." 1Cor 1:21


What Constitutes Saving Faith?

As mentioned previously, fundamentally saving faith is trusting in Jesus. But if a person trusts in Jesus he will accept what Jesus and his chosen apostles teach.
John 10:27  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
1John 4:6a We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us;
THE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him."

But believe what about the Son? To believe in the Son means

1.To believe what he claims about Himself
"If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." John 8:24
2. To believe his teachings
"Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" Luke 6:46

3. To believe the historic record of his life and miracles - such as his resurrection from the dead.
"If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9
"What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." 1Cor 15:3,4

4. To believe his mission of salvation
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." John 3:14,15
"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Rom 3:25

THE QUALITIES OF SAVING FAITH

Having considered what one is to believe, now I consider the manner in which one is to believe. First of all "faith", even though it is something your do, is not a category of work.

"Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.'" Rom 4:4-8

Faith is not a work. It is an attitude much like hope and love are attitudes. However there are inevitable outward expressions of one's faith. For one's beliefs are evident by one's behavior.  Inherent in saving faith is the intention of doing what Jesus said. Intention is not a work, it is an attitude. When a person refers to Jesus as Lord he expresses the intention to do what he said. Like he expresses the intention to stop sinning, as Jesus has told us. But for those who call Jesus Lord without intending to do what he said, Jesus says,"Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" Luke 6:46

What are examples of the outworkings of saving faith? For example

Calling on the Lord to save you is characteristic of saving faith. (Rom 10:13)

Repentance and baptism are likewise evidences of such faith. "Now when they heard (the gospel), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ'" Acts 2:37,38a

Loving other Christians is a primary identifying mark of saving faith as John says, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1John 3:14,15

Saving faith is also characterized as a "conviction", by which I mean it's the kind of faith you hold to permanently despite opposition. For Jesus said, "you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." Mt 10:22 So also it says, "'my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." Heb 10:38,39 So also John notes of those who leave the faith, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19 Thus if one has saving faith, such a person will remain till the end.


PROMISES OF SALVATION: Part 1


FREEDOM FROM CONDEMNATION

Those who believe in Christ are free from eternal condemnation.
Joh 3:17,18a  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned

Rom 8:1  there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

Rom 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

John 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

Such freedom from condemnation is due to the fact that God has forgiven our sins.
Heb 8:12 I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Ps 103:8-13 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;

Col 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,


RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT

Everyone who repents and believes in Jesus as demonstrated by their being baptized, will received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38,39 "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
In fact one of the very purposes God had in redeeming us was in order to give us the Holy Spirit.
Gal 3:14  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit
And now only those who have the Holy Spirit belong to Christ.
Rom 8:9 Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
For this to be the case, the moment we hear and believe the gospel we are both included in Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. For we cannot be included in Christ apart from receiving the Holy Spirit.
Eph 1:13,14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory.
Note also here the Holy Spirit is a guarantee of our salvation. It is the mark of ownership God places on those who belong to him. Thus if one belongs to God, he will have the seal of the Holy Spirit.
2Cor 1:22  set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
And the Holy Spirit testifies to us that we are God's children.
Rom 8:16  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
1John 3:24 ...this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
All those who belong to God have been baptized (immersed) into Christ by the Holy Spirit.
1Co 12:13  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Having been baptized by the Spirit into Christ, the Christian becomes God's temple - with the Spirit dwelling in them.
1Cor 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
And yes, while this applies to the Christian community as a whole (Eph 2:22; 1Pet 2:5), this also applies to the individual.
1Cor 6:19 Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
FUNCTIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts for the purpose of ministry.

1Cor 12:7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1Cor 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

The Holy Spirit helps us to pray
Rom 8:15  For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, <"Abba,> Father.

Rom 8:26,27  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

The Holy Spirit instructs us
1Cor 2:12  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Luke 12:12  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.

Among other things he guides us through the conviction of our conscience
Rom 9:1  I speak the truth in Christ— I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—
He utilizes the Word of God in our lives
Eph 6:17  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The Holy Spirit pours God's love into our hearts
Rom 5:5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
He also gives us a sense of peace and hope
Rom 14:17  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

Rom 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1Th 1:6  You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit sanctifies us - so that we may live rightly
Gal 5:22,23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Gal 6:8  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Titus 3:5 ...He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Ezekiel 36:25-27  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

He gives us strength of inner convictions
Eph 3:16  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being

PROMISES OF SALVATION: Part 2


ETERNAL LIFE

When the Bible speaks of the promises of the good news, it most commonly uses the term "Eternal Life".
Joh 6:40  "For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Ro 6:23  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The term "eternal life" encompasses a great many promises of salvation. For example it includes the promise of the resurrection from the dead. It includes the promise of sanctification - freedom from sin. And Jesus also speaks of eternal life including a relationship with himself and God the Father.
John 17:3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
So when we speak to people about the promise of eternal life, we should make it clear that it means more than just existing forever. Everyone exists forever. But some with exist in a state of eternal death suffering in the lake of fire separated from God, but others in a state of eternal life, in fellowship with God, free from sin and condemnation.


SONSHIP

Another promise concerning salvation is that of becoming a child of God.
2Cor 6:18 "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
Not everyone is a child of God, but only those of the faith. A person is not born of God until he believes in Jesus.
Gal 3:26 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
After a person believes in Jesus, he is given the right to become a child of God.
John 1:12,13 "as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
For it was God's plan that those who believe in him will become sons of God.
Eph 1:5 "he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—"
Notice that it speaks of being "adopted" here, as it says in other places (Rom 8:15; Rom 8:23; Gal 4:5) For we are not sons of God in the exact same sense as Jesus is the Son of God. For he is by very nature God, and as such is to be worshipped, being the Creator and LORD. But we are created beings. Thus our sonship in one sense is like an adoption. But adopted children are treated equally with one's natural children. On the other hand becoming a child of God is more than an adoption. For an adoption only affects one's status, but being born of God affects much more than one's status. For being born of God affects one's inner nature which ultimately will result in complete sanctification in the presence of God.

Such an effect begins to occur the moment one is born of God. For it is written, "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. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10 And thus there are visible indications of one having been born of God. (I will elaborate upon this later)

The idea of being a child of God also expresses the intimacy one has with God. And children of God also have certain rights and priviledges not shared by others.

Gal 4:5-7 "when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, <"Abba>, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."
Rom 8:17 "Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ"
Sonship also gives one a perspective on the disciplines which one experiences in life which lead to sanctification.
"you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? ...  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Heb 12:5-7,10-11

CO-REIGNING WITH CHRIST

As noted above concerning children of God, one of the perks is being co-heirs with Christ. (Rom 8:17) For "If we endure, We shall also reign with Him." 2Tim 2:12 Thus it is promised concerning the redeemed, "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Rev 5:10 And "... they shall reign forever and ever."Rev 22:5 Though much of the details concerning the future are spoken of vaguely, such as what we will be actually reigning over, nonetheless these promises impart to us a sense of our ultimate destiny and purpose - a purpose incorporating that of honor and authority.


PROMISES OF SALVATION: Part 3


POWER TO LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Where does the power come from to live the Christian life? There are a number of elements, but essential to all is the influence of the Holy Spirit.

The Influence of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to minister, as Jesus said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." Acts 1:8 And so also he regenerates our lives, cleansing us from sinfulness, renewing us daily. "He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:5

Living the Christian life is a matter of COOPERATING with what God is working in us. Paul exhorted the Philippians saying, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Php 2:12,13

The Influence of the Word of God

The Holy Spirit influences us in a number of ways, but his primary tool is through the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. (Eph 6:17) Thus the Word of God works in us who believe. "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." 1Th 2:13  The Spirit guides us through the truth of the Word (John 16:13) and by the knowledge gained we live the Christian life.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."2Peter 1:3,4

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 1Peter 1:22,23

The seed of the word - planted by the Holy Spirit - affects our behavior such that we characteristically live righteously and love fellow Christians, as it is written, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10

Influence through Other Christians

But our hearing of the Word is often in the context of fellowship with other believers. And thus if we're serious about sanctification we should be in fellowship with other believers who are devoted to applying the Word to their lives. John writes, "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us." 1John 1:3  The early Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42

Influence through the Conscience

Furthermore the Holy Spirit interacts not only with our mind to guide us into all truth, but also interacts with our conscience. Rom 9:1"I speak the truth in Christ— I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—" And thus much of the guidance we receive from the Holy Spirit particular to our circumstances we recieve by trying to maintain a clear conscience. When a person is baptized, he is making a pledge of a good conscience towards God. (1Peter 3:21) And thus his attitude should be that of Heb 13:18 "...We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way."

Notice other such testimonies of ministering with clear conscience.
"Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God." 2Cor 1:12

"We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God." 2Cor 4:2
Even one of the prerequisites for serving in the church was that "they must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience." 1Tim 3:9

But while the conscience gives guidance, what is it that influences the person to seek for a clear conscience?

Influence through the Fear of God

It seems to me that the conscience is motivated largely out of the fear of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and of the ungodly it is written that "there is no fear of God before their eyes." Rom 3:18. But to the Christians it is written, "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."2Cor 7:1  And Christians are exhorted to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" Php 2:12

But more specifically the fear of God is a fear of judgment in some form. "Fear as to do with punishment" 1John 4:18 And while believers are not subject to eternal condemnation, there are yet a number of things to be concerned about. "And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear" 1Peter 1:17

One concern should be whether one is indeed a genuine believer. For in view of their questionable behavior Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians saying, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5 And thus he also warns them, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10

Another concern is the fact that even believers are subject to judgment, as it is written, "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience." 2Cor 5:9-11

But what is also implied here is that not only was Paul concerned for how he will be evaluated on the judgment day, but also we should fear FOR the fate of others. For while we anticipate a judgment unto rewards, there are many others whom we seek to redeem from a judgment unto eternal condemnation. Jude writes, "others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh." Jude 1:23

Influence through the regenerative effect of being born-again

But now going one step deeper, where does this fear come from which motivates us to right living? He says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Eze 36:26,27 And similarly in Jeremiah, "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me." Jer 32:40

Thus the root cause of the Christian's right behavior is that of being born-again by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the promise of the New Covenant, made a new creature in Christ. (2Cor 5:17)


INEVITABLE SANCTIFICATION

Inherent in the hope of the resurrection is the anticipation of becoming sinlessly perfect in the presence of God. Paul expresses his struggle as a Christian in dealing with sin in his flesh in Romans 7. In the end he cries out, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God— through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Rom 7:24,25 For of this life, even for the Christian, it is written, "the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gal 5:17 But in the resurrection of the righteous, the sinful nature will be done away with and we will be raised incorruptible unto glory, no longer needing to struggle against the sinful nature. Thus the Christian can look forward to death, saying, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 1Cor 15:55 And of the New Jerusalem to come it is written, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life." Rev 21:27 "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." Eph 1:4


WHAT CONSTITUTES THE CHRISTIAN LIFE?


The Christian life is that lifestyle which is consistent with the Christian's position in Christ. So to start off with, what is the Christian's position with Christ? What is our relationship to God? There are a number of aspects to our relationship with God, among them are the following:
 

The Most Fundamental Aspects of a Christian's relationship with God

OBJECTS OF GRACE

For one thing the Bible speaks of the Christian as an object of grace - in contrast to our former relationship with God as an object of wrath. Grace, by the way, is that character quality by which the undeserving are shown mercy.

FORMER POSITION

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."Eph 2:1-3

PRESENT POSITION

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Eph 2:4-9

Our redemption from sin and from the wrath of God occurs due to God's being gracious to us. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Rom 3:23,24

As such salvation is not performance-based. It is not based upon an evaluation of how good you have been. "To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Rom 4:5 And central to this justification is God freely forgiving our sins. For David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Rom 4:6-8

CHILD OF GOD

A second aspect of the Christian's new relationship with God is that of being a child of God. "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." John 1:12,13 Our becoming children of God is contingent upon our faith. "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus". Gal 3:26 We are given birth through the Word and through the Sprit.

John 3:8 "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

What are the implications of being a child of God? One implication is that just as children follow the example of their parents so Christians should imitate God. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children." Eph 5:1

Another is the issue of inheritance. Galatians 4:4-7 "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, <'Abba>, Father.' So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." and "Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" Rom 8:17 And thus the Bible speaks of "inheriting" the kingdom of God. "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." Col 1:12

BRIDE OF CHRIST

Jesus speaks of himself as a bridegroom. Luke 5:34 Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?" So also does John the Baptist acknowledge this fact. "The bride belongs to the bridegroom." John 3:29 And there is even wedding feast spoken of. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready." Rev 19:7 But perhaps the most comprehensive passage on this subject is Ephesian 5:22-33 which gives an analogy between husband and wife compared to Christ and the church. In fact the marriage relationships was designed to be modeled after the relationship between Christ and the church (not the other way around.) For Paul quotes Genesis, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and  be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." (Gen 2:24; Eph 5:31) and goes on to say, "This is a profound mystery— but I am talking about Christ and the church." Eph 5:32

Thus if one has a Biblical understanding of the marriage relationship, one will have an understanding of the relationship between Christ and the Christians. (And conversely if one has a Biblical understanding of the relation between Christ and his Church, one has a proper understanding of the marriage relationship)

GOD'S SERVANT

"He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15 Thus the Christian is not free to do whatever he wants. Rather he's free to do what he should in service to God. "Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Rom 6:22

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father" Rev 1:5,6 And such is our role in eternity. "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him." Rev 22:3

The role of "servant" is not really in contrast to that of a child of God or bride of Christ, for servant is inherent in those roles as well. For example Paul writes, "What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate." Gal 4:1  And so also "as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." Eph 5:24

Obedience and submission is naturally central to being God's servant. But also such obedience brings one to the status of Friendship with God.

GOD'S FRIEND

John 15:14,15  "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

And thus also the degree of submission determines the degree of one's friendship with God. "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21 Thus revelation of God and intimacy with God is a function of submission to God.


Assurance of Salvation

Though a person is either saved or not saved (i.e. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1John 5:12), yet the Bible indicates that the feeling of assurance associated with one's salvation is to be relative to the degree  to which they behave as a child of God should. This explains the many verses which appear to question the salvation status of alleged Christians. For example when Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians concerning their deviant behavior, he exhorted them saying in 2Cor 13:5, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?", which was intended to instill fear and doubt as to their salvation status. Likewise in Heb 3:14 we read the conditional statement "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.", which similar to Paul's statement to the Corinthians, "I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,  by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you——unless you believed in vain." 1Cor 15:1,2 Thus John wrote of those who fell away, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19 In fact theme of the letter of 1John is How to Identify Those Born of God, study guides of which are available at http://www.bcbsr.com/books/1jn.html

Though once saved always saved, the Bible at times calls into question whether the "once saved" ever even occurred. Thus various verses were meant to instill fear within Christians for the purpose of causing us to question one's salvation status. So "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." Hebrews 10:26-27 And  "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal 5:19-21

All such verses are based upon the idea that given that a Christian's lifestyle is reflective of their faith and the effect of regeneration (being born of God), one should be able to discern their salvation status by their lifestyle. Problem is that "lifestyle" is a rather vague concept which does not have clear boundaries. And as such, except in more extreme cases there will always be some doubt. The doubt is not with regards to the gospel, but with regards to the quality of one's own belief, a faith which would qualify one for salvation. And secondly "lifestyle" is not something that can be measured in a punctilinear sense, that is, like snapshots, but rather like a movie - continuously over a period of time. Thus Jesus spoke of his parable of the weeds in Matthew 13 not to pull out the weeds while they are young for one may mistake a young wheat plant for a weed. But when they had time to mature the differences become obvious.

Thus for example when Paul first left the Thessalonian Christians after having been with them a few months, he doubted their salvation status. And so sent Timothy back to them to check on them. Paul wrote, "when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless." 1Th 3:5 But having heard back from Timothy he wrote, "we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you." 1Th 1:4  He then spend the rest of chapter 1 listing the observational evidence, based upon their behavior, that they were genuinely of the faith.

One application of these concepts is to not give young "alleged" Christians absolute assurance of their salvation status. In fact they should be exhorted to examine themselves as to whether their faith is genuine. In the parable of the sower Jesus taught, "Those on the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy but these have no root, who believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation." Lk 8:13 This had been Paul's concern for the Thessalonians.

Another application concerns alleged Christians who fall away into living a lifestyle of sin. Paul warns the Corintians, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 The Bible is clear that those living a lifestyle of sin are not to be presumed to be saved, regardless of how confident they feel they are saved or how confident other people feel that they had been saved at some point. Though again I mention that the concept of "lifestyle" does not have clear boundaries, but it does become clearer the further one is living from the boundary.


The Most Fundamental Characteristics of a Christian:

(These form the basis of one's assurance of salvation)

Having considered the Christian's position/status/role in relationship to God, what are the fundamental and measurable characteristics one should expect of a Christian whereby one can say with some assurance that such a person is a child of God?

The book of 1John is devoted to this question of the assurance of one's salvation, the main points being the following:

1. Believes in Christ.

1John 5:1 "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" This is most fundamental basis of one's assurance of salvation. However the problem is how does one identify genuine belief - belief characteristic of saving faith?
After giving instuctions concerning those who fall away, the writer of Hebrews says, "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case— things that accompany salvation." Heb 6:9

What kind of attitudes and behaviors accompany salvation? What are some of the inevitable outworkings of salvific faith?

2. Submits to Christ as Lord

1John 2:3 "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments."

John 10:27 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

 3. Follows the Apostles teachings

John 15:20 "Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."

1John 4:6 "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us."

 4. Loves fellow Christians

1John 3:14 "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death."

5. Separates from sin/lives righteously

1John 3:7,9,10 "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. ... 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. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother."

The Five Most Fundamental Activities of a Christian:

1. THE WORD

 One activity which all Christians should be involved with is listening to and applying the Word of God (The Bible).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Col 3:16
In fact it was by the Word of God that we were born-again.
"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 1Peter 1:23
For our faith in Christ was born in listening to the Word.
"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom 10:17
And it is by abiding in the Word that we are identified as disciples of Christ.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31,32
The Word of God is the Spirit's primary weapon.
"take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;" Eph 6:17

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Heb 4:12

The righteous crave for the Word.
"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." 1Peter 2:2

"When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty."Jer 15:16

But it is not just that we listen to it. We are to apply it. (Application-oriented Bible study should be the only kind of Bible study relevant to the Christian life. If there's no application to what you're studying, there's no relevance.)

"I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built." Luke 6:47,48

Application-oriented Bible study brings fruitfulness.
"Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper." Psalm 1:1-3

2. PRAYER

Acts 2:42  "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

As prayer is one of the most fundamental activities of the Christian, the Bible speaks a great deal on the subject. This will only be a brief overview.

What is prayer?

Prayer is communicating with God. As such, even given this simple definition, Christian prayer may differ from the idea of "prayer" found in other religions. For example as prayer involves communication, it is not like that of Hindus who chant a mantra or those who vainly repeat words or phrases in hope that they will be heard for their many words. Jesus said, "when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." Matt 6:7 Treating God like a divine vending machine in which you just push the right buttons to get what you want is disrespectful. God is our Father, and so as you should speak to your father, in this way God should be spoken to.

Perhaps best to learn of prayer by those who prayed. The entire chapter 17 of John gives us an example of Jesus praying. So also we have many examples of prayer throughout the Bible.

What is the basic content of prayer?

One might categorize prayer according to the acronymn ACTS

Adoration - acknowledging the attributes of God
Confession - acknowledging sin
Thanksgiving - thanking God
Supplication - asking God for things

But I think also a very significant category of Supplication should be mentioned - namely:

Intercession - asking God on behalf of others

Praying on behalf of others is the most common form of supplication in the Bible.

A number of these categories of prayer can be found in the "Our Father" of Matthew 6:9-15 (See also http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/pray_ourfather.html for more analysis of that section)

What are the prerequisites for prayer?

The Bible indicates that God will not listen to your prayers except under certain conditions.

Under what conditions will God not listen to you?
 

1. If you're living a lifestyle of sin

Isaiah 59:1-4 "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil."

2. If you cherish sin in your hearts

Ps 66:18 "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened"

3. If you love to wander into sin without restraint.

Jer 14:10-12 This is what the LORD says about this people: "They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the LORD does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins." Then the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague."'

4. If you're chosing worldly lordship over that of the Lordship of Christ.

1Sa 8:18 "You will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."

5. If you ask with selfish or vain motives

Matt 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men."
Therefore what can you do to become a man of prayer?
Acknowledge sin and change your ways. Seek holiness:

Isaiah 1:15-17 "When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!"

And be sincere in your prayers, speaking truthfully.
Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

1. Thus this first stage in becoming a man of prayer involves Character Development - Sanctification - Holiness
We see this also spoken of Jesus who was qualified to be our high priest because of his holiness.  "Such a high priest meets our need— one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." Heb 7:26 Thus if we are to walk as He did and become priests (men of prayer) on behalf of others, we first need holiness.

2. Secondly to be a man of prayer one has to grow with respect to love for your fellow man.

3. After this comes issues of content and discernment both of the circumstances and discernment of God's will.

Thus A Believer who has accepted the Lordship Christ is prepared to become a man of prayer by first growing in Holiness, Love, and Discernment
Holiness so that God will listen
Love to desire to intercede on behalf of others
Discernment to recognize what needs praying for

When should we pray?

PRAY ALWAYS
Eph 6:18  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

How much should we pray?

PRAY PERSISTENTLY
Luke 18:1 "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." He then tells of the parable of the persistent widow
Ro 12:12  rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

And there is much more to be said on prayer - like for example how the apostle Paul prayed throughout his New Testament letters. (See more materials on prayer at http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/prayer.html)

Whom are we to pray to?

Well of course there is only one God, but how to address him? For example Muslims also claim there is but one God and address him as Allah. But upon further investigation we find that their “Allah” is characteristically different than God of the Bible. Therefore when we address God, we want to make sure that we characterize God properly, else we may be just addressing an idol, a god we made up in our own minds – or that which is a product of false prophecies, as in Islam.

God is addressed in many different ways in the Bible, each address emphasizing certain aspects of his character. For example he’s spoken of as “El Shaddai” (God all-sufficient), Adonai (Lord), Jehovah (or Yahweh – The Self-Existent One),  Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord will provide), Jehovah-Rophe (The Lord who heals), and many others. These are not addressing different gods, but rather addressing the One God, emphasizing certain of his characteristics.

In the New Testament God is often addressed as “Father”. In fact Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’” Mat 6:9 He is also referred to as “God” and also as “Lord God”, as in Rev 11:17 saying: "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.”

But is it appropriate to pray to Jesus?

The Psalmist prayed "So I said: "Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands" Psalm 102:24,25 But this was also quoted in Heb 1:10 referring to Jesus. For Jesus is the LORD. So he was addressing the Lord Jesus. So also

Of God it says:

"This is what the LORD says-- Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God." Isaiah 44:6

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."Rev 1:8

And of Jesus is says:

"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again." Rev 2:8

"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Rev 22:12,13

Isaiah writes, I saw the Lord seated on a throne” Is 6:1 referring to him as the “LORD Almighty”. Is 6:3, yet the apostle John indicates that what Isaiah saw was the Lord Jesus. (John 12:41 – which refers to Isaiah 6)

It’s written in Romans 10:13 that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So who is the “Lord” verse 13 is referring to whom we are to call upon to be saved? A few verse before that is says, “that if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom 10:9 Thus when the first Christian martyr was killed it is written that  “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’” Acts 7:59 So it is appropriate to pray to Jesus, who is LORD. And by the way that quote in Rom 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”, Paul took from  the Old Testament prophet Joel 2:27-32 which also says, “I am the LORD your God” So in view of these references, whom do you think the New Testament authors thought the Jesus was?

So whether you’re praying to Jesus or praying to God the Father, you’re praying to the One Lord God – for “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-3,14

In practice Christians address God in various ways in prayer. “Father”, “Lord God”, “Lord”, “Lord Jesus”. These all have precedent in the Bible. Though there is little precedent for addressing the Spirit of God, even though he is intimately involved in the process of prayer. For example it says , “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Rom 8:26 And we are commanded to pray in the Spirit (Jude 1:20), and also many prayers involve praying about the Spirit’s activities, and the Spirit does instruct, convict and give guidance, but I can think of no examples of praying to the Spirit, or addressing the Spirit in prayer, though there is nothing forbidding that. New Testament prayers are directed to the Father and the Son.

EXAMPLES OF ANSWERED PRAYER

PETER

“Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.” Acts 9:40

ISAAC

“Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” Ge 25:21

MOSES

“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.” Num 11:1,2

HANNAH

“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.” 1Sam 1:10
“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” 1Sam 1:27

ELISHA

As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, "Strike these people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. 2Kings 6:18

HEZEKIAH

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to the LORD, who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign. 2Chr 32:24

NEHEMIAH

Nehemiah’s Request – Nehemiah chapter 1

God’s Answer – Nehemiah chapter 2

JONAH

Jonah chapter 2 – Jonah, having been swallowed by a fish, prays for deliverance, and the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.


3. FELLOWSHIP

The Christian life must be lived in relationships with other Christians for a couple of reasons.

1. It's by a Christian's love for other Christians that one is identified as a follower of Christ. For Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34,35

2. God has designed Christians to mature through their interdependence upon one another. Eph 4:15,16 "speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

For example, proper Christian fellowship will encourage one to love and to do good deeds. Heb 10:24,25 "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

So also Christian leaders provide the younger Christians an example to follow. Heb 13:7 "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."

In light of these ideas, what constitutes "Christian Fellowship"? Christian fellowship is not simply a "preference" to be around other Christians. It is not simply an internal feeling of affection. Though that will generally come with the territory. Christian fellowship involves seeking the mutual edification of the body of Christ. And just as a body does not function or grow properly unless every part of it does it work, so also with the church, which is the body of Christ. (Eph 1:23)

"God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually." 1Cor 12:18-27

Today some Christians are under the impression that edification of the body of Christ is only the responsibility of church leaders. They are under the misconception that only church leaders are "in the ministry." But the fact is that ALL Christians - every single one - are "in the ministry". And if they are not utilized, then the body suffers. Thus many a local assembly of Christians is stuck in a state of immaturity because not all the Christians are participating in the ministry - either because they are not allowed to do so or by personal choice. While some church leaders may feel threatened by or otherwise envious of the ministry of lay Christians, the apostle Paul was joyful having entire churches fellowship in the ministry of the gospel. "I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." Php 1:4,5

So also should be the attitude towards fellow churches. For we're all in this together. It is part of our sinful human nature that when people organize into separate groups, such groups tend to develop a divisive prideful attitude towards one another. But let it not be the case among the body of Christ. For while it is helpful in the practical ministering among a localized group of Christians to form local institutional churches, it is important to keep in mind that Christian fellowship is not limited by institutional boundaries. And thus rather than having an "us versus them" mentality, Christians should view themselves as members of every institutional church.

Finally, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Rom 12:10 As for the particulars of the practice of Christian fellowship, there is too much to say as much of the New Testament letters are devoted to this subject.


4. WITNESSING

Another basic area of Christian Activity is Evangelism (or "witnessing"). It primarily involves passing on the testimony of the apostles as to the life and message of Jesus Christ which they witnessed either in person or by revelation.

The Apostle's Testimony versus Personal Experience

And I want to make clear that this definition is in contrast to the evangelism that some practice today where the emphasis is upon one's own personal testimony or experience. I've noticed that such people tend to exaggerate some experience they've had so as to be on the level of the kind of miracles the apostles witnessed so as to make themselves a sort of "apostle". And they give the false expectation that people coming to Christ should experience similar miracles. But "we walk by faith and not by sight." 2Cor 5:7 And remember what Jesus said to Thomas, "because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."John 20:29 Thus the apostle's testimony of the miracles they witnessed should be considered sufficient and convincing evidence.

But if you've experienced a miracle, please feel free to share that with the person. But try to stay objective, sharing in a similar spirit as the gospel writers - keeping to the facts. Else people may question your integrity and the certainty of your account. Consider how Luke starts his gospel, "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Luke 1:1-4

This is how the gospel writers thought of evangelism. It was simply getting the word out as to Jesus' life and message. It's not complicated. We have the testimonies written down in the Bible. Our job is simply to give that infomation to others.

Now some may consider that foolish. But realize that "in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." 1Cor 1:21  And where does saving faith come from? How can we generate it in our listeners? Very simply "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Rom 10:17 And the "word of Christ" is in the Bible.

And this logically follows. For there is nothing else that could honestly be the foundation of one's faith concerning things of God and of eternal life. Like if you ask someone's opinion as to the afterlife, or what God requires, or upon what basis will people go to heaven or be sent to hell, how would they know apart from God telling them? Yet many base their eternal destiny upon the flimsy foundation of human opinion. But God has spoke in the Bible, and confirmed that He has spoken by its convincing record of miracles. And this point is in constrast to religions like Islam which claim to have God's word, but no convincing evidence, and the "word" they have contradicts what God has already said in the Bible.

As to the content and manner in which the gospel was preached in the New Testament, I would reference the page "How the Bible preaches the Gospel" at http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/preaching.html

Winning a Hearing:

Thus since it is all layed out for us in the Bible, the actual preaching of the gospel is easy. The difficult part of evangelism is "winning a hearing". For why would people listen to you?

Why did they listen to Jesus and the apostles?

1. Well of course there were the miracles themselves. And who wouldn't be drawn to see a miracle. But since God has ordained that we walk by faith and not by sight, such miracles as recorded in the gospels are rare today. Though perhaps some would be drawn just listen to the record of miracles. And conveniently the gospel writers wove the record of miracles together with Jesus' message together in their gospel accounts.

2. People were also drawn to receive some earthly benefit. The sick sought to be healed; the hungry to be fed; or simply the rejected to be accepted. So feel free to utilize what resources you have to that end so that not only will they benefit in earthly things, but then perhaps be open to considering spiritual things.

3. Another draw is the communication of conviction.

a. Note Acts 19,20 "Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city!" When people see that you endure through persecution, you communicate conviction. This itself will catch some people's attention, making them open to listening to you.

b. Another way we communicate conviction is by our repentance from sin. Paul writes of the Thessalonians, "The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia— your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." 1Thess 1:8-10

c. Even the practice of submission to legitimate authority may make them open to hearing. For example "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives." 1Peter 3:1,2

4. God also opens people's heart. Notice Acts 16:13,14 "On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message."

5. Notice also from that same verse the principle of seeking out the seeking. Go fishing where the fish are, not where the fish are not. Jesus spend most of his time with those predisposed to hearing him. So also when Paul entered a town, he often went first to the synagogue. I feel that while the gospel should be preached to all, those who are most open deserve the most time and effort on our part. And that's where Jesus and his apostles spent most of their time and effort.

6. And let us not underestimate the effectiveness of prayer in preparing the ground. It first helps in preparing the messenger. For even the apostle Paul requested, "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Eph 6:19,20 And pray for the circumstances - for an "open door" - Col 4:3  "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message."


5. GOOD WORKS

"We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph 2:10

Through the blood of Christ our Lord and by the grace of God our Father, we are saved from sin and from the wrath of God which sin incurs. But what are we saved unto? We are saved unto a holy and righteous life, actively involved in doing good works.

Fellowship spurs us on:

Therefore the scripture exhorts, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Heb 10:24 And notice it continues, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another." Does your fellowship with other Christians spur you on to love and good deeds? Do you provoke other Christians to practice love and good deeds? Indeed that is one of the main functions of fellowship.

But it may take some maturing for each Christian to come to the realization of the importance of doing good deeds. 

In fact if a person isn't doing the good he ought to do, that's sin.

Christ's example spurs us on:

Titus 3:4-8 "when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone."

Prayer spurs us on:

Col 1:10 "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God"

And we are to do good even despite suffering unjustly:

1Pe 4:19 "So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

God's provides resources to do good:

For "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2Cor 9:8

Holiness prepares us to do good:

2Tim 2:21,22 "If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

BENEFITS:

Not only do we benefit others by doing good, we also benefit ourselves in a very significant way. For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 1Peter 3:10-12

And so also doing good gives us a feeling of assurance that we are among the righteous. For Jesus said, "a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out— those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:28,29 (So also Matthew 25:31-46)

Good works may also win for us a hearing:

Mt 5:16  "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
1Pe 2:12  "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

Therefore "do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Heb 13:16

As for some practical examples in the New Testament:

Acts 9:36  "In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor."

Acts 10:31 "and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor."

Gal 2:10 "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."

1Tim 5:10 "and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds."


The Fundamental Attitudes Of The Christian Life

HUMILITY

Humility is the most essential of character qualities for a number of reasons.

First of all for a person to come to faith in Christ, he must have a degree of humility. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Mt 18:3,4

What childlike aspect was Jesus referring to? Humility characterized by one's teachability. That is, adults are not characteristically teachable as children are due to their having too much pride. Thus when you treat an adult as a child they feel humiliated. But humiliation is a common experience among those who come to faith in Christ in that we have to admit the fact that we are guilty, we have lived sinful lives, and we need to be saved. We have to furthermore admit that we cannot know God by our own wisdom, but must be told of him and his ways by the scriptures. And thus much of our former ideas and theories have to be replace with what the Bible actually tells us. Thus a humble person is open to correction, which is in fact one way to identify the humble.

Seeking the Lord is contingent upon one's humility. The Bible says, "Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger." Zep 2:3

Humility also esteems one in God's sight. He says, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." Is 66:2 And "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:14 Therefore "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1Peter 5:5

Humility is an essential character quality for living the Christian life. For to live the Christian life is to be a "disciple" of Christ. But "disciple" literally means a "learner". And to be open to learning, one must be teachable; one must be humble.

So also being a disciple of Christ means to follow his example of humility as it is written, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" Php 2:5-8


FAITH, HOPE & LOVE

Now along with Humility, there are many attitudes associated with the Christian life, all of which are interrelated. Three of the most fundamental, often mentioned together are Faith, Hope, and Love. For example in 1Cor 13:13 he mentions, "now these three remain: faith, hope and love." 1Th 1:3 "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

FAITH is believing or trusting God concerning what He has said. While Christian faith should not be presumptuous concerning what God has not explicitly stated, nonetheless Christian faith does also include making inferences and deriving applications concerning what God has said - even though one may be mistaken concerning such inferences from time to time. For example when Abraham was commanded to kill Isaac, he realized that somehow he would get Isaac back because God has promised that Isaac would have children. Thus Hebrews says, "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death." Heb 11:19 So based upon what God said, Abraham "reasoned" - that is, he made an inference - that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Though he was mistaken about how God would do it, nonetheless his inference, which was based on his faith in what God had said, was generally correct.

And thus Christians do their best to try to understand what God has said, and make inferences from it so as to derived particular applications of faith. But faith which is not applied is not Biblical faith. 

HOPE is the feeling of anticipation one has concerning what one believes about the future. In particular the Bible most frequently associates this with the hope of the resurrection from the dead and the eternal glory to follow. Note for example the following verses:

Ac 23:6  Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead."

Ac 24:15  and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Rom 8:23-25 we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

1Cor 15:19-20 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Love incorporates a genuine concern for the welfare of others along with the intention of doing something about it.

As a counter-example John notes, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him." 1John 3:17

Now Paul notes these three attitudes concerning the Thessalonian Christians, "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."1Th 1:3

Notice that he evaluated each attitude based upon its outworkings. What is the outworking of Faith?  Simply works of faith. What is the outworking of Love? The intensity with which they did the works of faith. And what is the outworking of Hope? The endurance with which they did the works.

But notice also the correlation between faith, hope and love which he mentions of the Colossians, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints- the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel." Col 1:3-5

Here he says that their faith and love spring from their hope (concerning heaven). But how can faith spring from hope. Isn't hope contingent upon faith? Yes indeed. For how could they have the hope of eternal life if they hadn't first believed God's promise concerning eternal life. But that's not what he's referring to as "faith" in this context. What happens is:

Faith in God's promise concerning eternal life leads to => The feeling of anticipation of that eternal life (hope), which leads to => outworkings of faith and works of love for others (and for other Christians especially).

And not only that, but hope also produces boldness. For he also says, "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold." 2Co 3:12

Hope also leads to purity. For John writes, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." 1John 3:2,3

So if there's some deficiency these, such Christians need to be reminded of the hope they have stored up for them in heaven. "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."1Peter 1:13

LOVE
While I previously mention 1Cor 13:13 "now these three remain: faith, hope and love." The verse goes on to say, "But the greatest of these is love." And the context indicates that it is the greatest of those attitudes namely because while faith and hope have an end when they are fulfilled, love continues on forever.

OBJECTS OF LOVE.
The Bible generally deals with three objects of love. First of all there is love towards God, as revealed by one's obedience. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15 And John writes, "This is love for God: to obey his commands." 1John 5:3

Secondly is love for other Christians.  Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John  13:34,35 And thus such love for fellow Christians is indicative that one believes in Christ, as John also writes, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1John 3:14,15 And thus preference is given to doing good for fellow Christians as Paul writes, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Gal 6:10

And thirdly is the general love for everyone else. For "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 So also should we seek the welfare of those who are yet to come to faith. Paul also writes, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1Tim 2:1-4 God wants everyone to be saved, and so should we.

ATTITUDES OF LOVE

In 1Cor 13 Paul speaks of Love as incorporating a number of attitudes, many of which elsewhere are referred to as the "fruit of the Spirit".

Just to categorize from 1Cor 13:4-8 concerning what attitudes are and are not incorporated in Christian love:

LOVE is characterized by being:
1. Patient
2. Kind
3. Rejoicing in the truth
4. protective of others, trusting God, hopeful, persevering

And Love is characterized by not:
1. being envious
2. boasting
3. being proud
4. being rude
5. being self-seeking
6. being easily angered
7. keeping a record of wrongs
8. delighting in evil


THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

Much of the New Testament letters are devoted to the issue of attitudes in the Christian life, so it would be difficult to condense them all. But for a sampling there is a list of some in Galatians 5:22,23 which are taken in contrast to the opposing attitude mention prior to that. But of Galatians 5:22,23 it says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Perhaps it is instructive that he uses the word "fruit" in the singular despite the fact he gives a list of attitudes. For it may be that he is saying that all of these together, not simply individually or isolated, should be characteristic of the Christian. In fact notice that much of these in the list of the fruit of the Spirit are also characteristic of love as he said previously in 1Corinthians 13. Thus a Christian having love, joy and peace should also be characterized as faithful and having self-control.



SUBMISSION

There is much instruction concerning this attitude in the New Testament letters. Particularly near the end of Romans, 1Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews and 1Peter. Granted that Christian submission includes submission to Christ as Lord. But these also speak of submission to legitimate human authority - both secular and spiritual.

Submission of course goes hand in hand with Humility. In fact it is somewhat a measure of one's humility, and at times a helpful source of humiliation which God uses to help us maintain a proper level of humility. But it is also source of honor. For even concerning secular authorities Paul writes, "rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you."Rom 13:3 Though he's speaking in general, not denying that human authorities themselves don't always behave as they should, even as the early Christians experienced. But generally speaking this is the case.

Given the common objections and illegitimate excuses that even Christians come up with to excuse themselves from this obligation to submit to human authority, let me mention a few points.

Firstly, all human authority has only a limited realm of authority outside of which they are not legitimate authority. BUT just because you are not obligated to submit to them outside of their legitimate realm of authority does not mean you are not obligated to submit to them within their legitimate realm of authority. In other words if they tell you to do something which they don't really have authority to tell you to do, that does not nullify the commands they have given within their legitimate realm of authority.

Secondly, (and this often comes up in families, as familiarity breeds contempt), you are not to usurp authority just because you feel you are smarter or more capable than them. Though, of course, you can attempt to influence them - as any good servant would want the best for his master.

But besides these it seems the roles of authority are relatively well defined in scripture, though their realms will have to be inferred.



THE FEAR OF THE LORD

The fear of God should also be characteristic of a Christian's attitude. For of the ungodly it is written, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Rom 3:18 But "since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear." 1Peter 1:17  And Paul writes to the Philippians, "my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Php 2:12

The fear of God is also assumed by the New Testament authors in motivating the Christian community through warnings. For example Paul writes, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal 5:19-21 Such rhetoric is intended to invoke fear so as to motivate the person to heed the instruction. Thus fear is part of the Christian life, as proverbs also affirms, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Prov 1:7 And "through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil." Prov 16:6

And thus we read in Acts 9:31 "the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord."

("Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men." 2Cor 5:11 )


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 28,2015