Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Security of a Believer

While there exists a real danger of falling away as a Christian, God has given us promises in scripture, gifts of the Holy Spirit, empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the wonderful blessing of being able to confess our sins, repent and be forgiven when we fall. To benefit and appropriate these, they all require an act of our will - we need to do something - they are not automatically conferred. Furthermore, God is watching over us and He promises that no temptation too strong will come upon us, without there being a way of escape. The wonderful thing that we need to be aware of constantly is that God intensely loves everyone of us. He does not want to lose a single soul. Jesus is at the right hand of God continually interceding for us. The saints in heaven, the great cloud of witnesses, are cheering us on. We should imagine in our minds that we are running a race and that the grandstands are full of the saints who have passed on. They are cheering  us on. The Holy Spirit is along side us and giving us a helping hand. In fact, He is inside us, giving us strength to keep running. If we get side tracked and take our attention off the goal, we will stumble and fall. The Holy Spirit, Jesus and the Father will be there waiting for us to confess our sins, repent, get up and start running again. This is how the grace of God works. There is enough grace and forgiveness, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover all our sins, it will not run out, provided we keep confessing our sins when we fall. Then the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all unrighteousness and put us back into the position of having the righteousness of Christ. The longer we stay in the race and keep running, the more we will have the mind of Christ. The more we think in the way God wants us to think, the more victory we will have. It will become easier and easier to overcome sin. But we need to understand the principle of sowing and reaping. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption and spiritual death. If we sow to the spirit, we will reap eternal life. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to stay connected to Christ, we are the branches and when we draw off the Holy Spirit's power, we will bear beautiful fruit. God the Father is wooing us, He is romantic, He wants us to spend intimate time with Him on a daily basis and then stay connected throughout the day. We can see in the book of the Song of Solomon, how God desires us to be His bride. He intensely loves us and does not want the enemy to pull us away from Him. However, true love has to be a choice. A robot can never show true love. That is why God had to take the risk of giving us a free will. He wants us to choose Him continually. It is when we start substituting our desire for God with other things (idols) that we start to fall away and if we don't be careful, we can eventually fall so far as to lose the salvation that was freely given. The warning of falling away is clearly cited in several places in the scripture. Paul encourages us to run the race, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to have a reverential fear of God, recognising that He could send us to hell if we do not obey, we must hate sin, keep repenting when we fall, cling to God, don't become over confident, lest we fall. If we keep a contrite heart, humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, resist the devil, he will flee from us. The devil is prowling around seeking whom he may devour. We must not be ignorant, we must be on our guard, we must take up the whole armour of God and recognise that we are fighting a battle. This is not a dress rehearsal or a computer game, this is a matter of life and death. We have to take our walk seriously, we must be aware that there are wolves in sheeps clothing seeking to deceive us. We have to become so familiar with the truth of scripture that we will immediately detect error creeping in. If we remain close to God, if we choose to abide under the shadow of His wings, He will protect us, His angels will watch over us and no weapon formed against us will prosper. But if we choose not to abide under His wings, we will not have His protection and will become a target and we will fall. So again, we must realise that the most powerful thing we have as humans at our disposal, is our freewill. We must choose to allow the Holy Spirit to empower us, we must choose to repent when we sin, we must keep fellowshipping with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as well as other believers. We need to stay in the word of God and absorb it as food for our souls and spirits. We need a healthy meal of the Word of God each day to have the strength to deal with what we will face that day. If we ask Him for enough grace for today, He will supply what we need. If we don't ask, we won't receive. God wants us to ask HIm for His grace every day. He wants us to ask Him for His wisdom, for His understanding, for His insight, for His love to fill our hearts, to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit each day, each moment. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to enable us to overcome. He desires to give us all we need, we must just cooperate with Him. Then if we keep running this race, everyday, never giving up, but persevering to the end, we will enter His Kingdom and He will say "Well done, my good and faithful servant".

So in conclusion, we can have assurance of salvation if we choose to stay close to Him after we have been born again, we can know that we are born-again and destined for heaven if we have truly repented and put our faith in the saving work of Jesus on the cross. We can have that peace that passes all understanding. We can have the confidence that nothing shall by any means be able to separate us from God's love. Neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above, or in the earth below - indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

True Grace vs False Grace

What is Grace? 
Why could there be a False Grace?

Firstly, Grace relates to God's character and His intentions towards us. In other words it has a close relationship with salvation. We are saved by Grace, through Faith in the Lord Jesus.

To understand Grace then, lets look at one of the parables that Jesus taught which relates to salvation. The parable of the ten virgins is a parable about salvation as taught by Jesus. We should therefore take this very seriously.

The Lord Jesus taught about salvation in at least seven different parables. The parable of the ten virgins is just one of the times. This parable shows, among other things, the need to endure, even when others do not. Ponder the Lord's salvation message carefully and you'll learn from both the wise and the foolish virgins. Here is his teaching:

● At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. (Mat 25:1,2)

Clearly, this teaching is about 10 real, genuine virgins. While none were counterfeit virgins, 5 were foolish. Again, it isn’t that those 5 virgins were never really virgins in the first place, but they were foolish virgins. That is why things ended the way they did for them. Regarding the term virgin, ponder carefully what Paul wrote to Christians:

... I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (2 Cor 11:2)

Jesus, the bridegroom, is to be presented pure spiritual virgins as his bride. This is the type of person Jesus is referring to in his teaching on the Ten Virgins. At an earlier time, the Lord Jesus also spoke of the wise and foolish. In that case they were all house builders:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Mat 7:24)

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. (Mat 7:26)

James also wrote of the wise (and understanding):

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)

(In every case, the wise are always faithful obedient followers of God’s way.) Getting back to Mt. 25:1-13, NOTE: all 10 of the virgins went out to meet the bridegroom (Jesus). This is more evidence that they all had salvation at that early point.

● The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. (Mat 25:3,4)

This is a key passage showing what made the wise virgins wise and the foolish virgins foolish. While both groups had a burning lamp, only the wise brought along extra lamp oil to keep their lamps burning while waiting to meet the bridegroom. Elsewhere Jesus taught Christians:

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning (Luke 12:35)

NOTE: While Jesus commands the saints to keep their lamps burning, it is man’s responsibility to actually keep them burning. If it was solely left up to God, no spiritual lamp would ever stop burning. Only the wise, by bringing extra lamp oil in a jar, were able to keep their lamps burnings.

● The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. (Mat 25:5)

NOTE: Here and elsewhere Jesus taught a late coming, thus implying a post tribulation rapture. All 10 virgins became drowsy and fell asleep while awaiting the bridegroom—even the wise.

● At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (Mat 25:6)

At the darkest time of the night (midnight) the bridegroom came. It was then that the virgins needed to be ready.

● Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.” “No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.” (Mat 25:7-9)

The foolish had a lamp burning for God, but it was now dying out. This is a real danger which few seem to recognize. They needed oil to keep their lamps burning, but it would have to be purchased. It was not freely given, even to the wise. Again, there was a price that needed to be paid to get that oil to keep their lamps burning as God wants. The wise, who were thinking ahead and knew they would have to endure, had already paid that price and were ready at that crucial time.

●But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. (Mat 25:10)

The negligence of the foolish caught up with them. They were not ready to meet the bridegroom anymore. Only the wise, who still had a burning lamp, were ready. They alone went into the wedding banquet.

● Later the others also came. “Sir! Sir!” they said. “Open the door for us!” (Mat 25:11) But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.” (Mat 25:12)

The foolish returned, but the door was closed. (Apparently, the foolish didn’t have the knowledge that once the door is closed it won’t be opened for late comers, who are not ready.)

Jesus’ response to the 5 foolish virgins is most revealing about the vital need of enduring. Unlike the wise virgins, Jesus didn’t know the foolish virgins anymore. NOTE: He didn’t say to those foolish virgins, I never knew youas he tells a different group of continuous tense evil doers:

Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Mat 7:23)

The Lord Jesus no longer had a relationship with the 5 foolish virgins as he did at an earlier time when their lamps were burning and they were ready to meet the bridegroom. That relationship ended because of their negligenceThe Lord finishes off his teaching about the 10 virgins with a warning to all of his followers:

● Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Mat 25:13)

That was the second time such a warning was given. The first was in the same discourse:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Mat 24:42)

In other words, if you are a Christian, do not end up like the five foolish virgins. What happened to them could happen to you. Keep watch over yourself. Don’t let your lamp burn out. Clearly, such is a salvation issue and nothing less since the foolish ones were no longer known by the Lord.Are you now, at this time, keeping watch over your own soul? If you were once saved, is your lamp still burning or has it died out? Does Jesus still know you?

NOTE: It was 5 out of 10 or 1 out of 2 or 50% who fell away from their salvation. The parable of the ten virgins directly applies to the very end of this age when the Lord returns. Hence, Jesus taught a great falling away before his return. See also 2 Thess. 2:3 and Mt. 24:10. 

Understanding the parable of the ten virgins helps us discern when a message on Grace being taught is tending towards error. If the Grace message is leaving you with the impression that God does everything and you just cant help yourself from sinning and it actually does not matter if you keep on sinning because you are saved anyway, regardless. Then this Grace message is false and is not what the Bible teaches.

NOTE: While Jesus commands the saints to keep their lamps burning, it is man’s responsibility to actually keep them burning. If it was solely left up to God, no spiritual lamp would ever stop burning. Only the wise, by bringing extra lamp oil in a jar, were able to keep their lamps burnings.