Category Archives: Salvation

Easter, The Ultimate Answer To, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Golgotha

With this year’s Resurrection Sunday celebration approaching, I’ve been reflecting on a really good related discussion I had with a friend, around this time of year, about five years ago. What was then a new relationship seemed to be one where we quickly recognized that we liked each other regardless of our differing views on some pretty important topics. I say “really good discussion” because it was an open exchange with both of us genuinely interested in hearing the other’s points of view and wanting to learn from that. Candidly, I have to give my friend more credit than I can take myself, in that regard. Although this “really good discussion” mostly involved the two forbidden topics typically warned against for peaceful relationships … Politics and Religion … as I strongly suspected, this was just our first “really good discussion” of many to come.

One of the results of that conversation was for me to be reminded that, while I was clear in my understanding of my positions on the issues we discussed, I wanted to be able to clearly express my views to others. The question that was raised that confronted me with this most significantly was the question, “Do you believe there’s only one way to Heaven?” Although I think my response to this was adequate, it seemed to me that I should be prepared to offer more than an answer that’s just OK to such an important question. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible compels Christians to do this, saying, “[be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you”.

Expressing the “reason of the hope that is in (me)” is what I wanted to be better prepared to do but, before I delve into that, I should give you my initial answer to that question. My answer is:

I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I, also, believe that every person can have salvation through accepting Christ’s sacrifice for their sin. And, I believe that salvation, through accepting Christ’s sacrifice, is the one and only path to Heaven.

Since my friend didn’t state his position on this question, I won’t presume to give you his answer. I will say his question was accompanied with several related questions and comments that I took into account as I considered how to best express the “reason of the hope that is in (me)”. One related question was, “Do you think Mother Teresa went to Heaven?” and one related comment was, “I make it a daily habit, when considering certain choices, to ask myself, ‘What would Jesus do?'” I’m paraphrasing rather than quoting here but, to me, this combination of questions and comments had certain implications. One was that while my friend had some high regard for Jesus, he didn’t necessarily accept Him as being the only way to Heaven. Another was that “good works”/”being a good person” should get you to Heaven.

So, in order to respond to this and more adequately express the “reason of the hope that is in (me)”, the two questions to answer are:

  1. Who is Jesus
  2. Can “good works” alone be a path to Heaven?

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Going To Heaven Alone

iron

REBUKED BY FRIENDS

When I express strong views on a sensitive topic, I’m not surprised when I get pushback from those who see matters differently. But, when I’m rebuffed by those who I think are friends, accepting me and my beliefs, it’s sort of shocking. I had that happen recently and it led me to do some introspection that I’d like to share.

The specifics of this recent occurrence involved a meeting I attended with a small group of people who I’ve worked very closely with for several years. Without inappropriately sharing intimate details of that meeting, let me just say that there was mention of another person who we’ve known through our work, who seemed to be going through a difficult time and that they were attending a Bible study being conducted by someone else we’ve known through our work. Hearing that was a pleasant surprise to me so I responded by saying something like, “I just hope (that person) is truly paying attention at the Bible study.” With that, I sensed a reaction that I later described as a unanimous rolling of the eyes by the other participants.

UNDERSTANDING THE REBUKE

Since my comment came just from my truly caring about the person we had been discussing, that added to my bewilderment over being chided as I was. So, the following day, I approached one of the other attendees to discuss this. In addition to getting affirmation of my sensing that unanimous rolling of the eyes, I was reminded that there are some settings where discussion of topics like religion and politics is just not welcome. And, beyond that, I was told that I was just more spiritual than the other attendees.

In reflecting on that one-on-one follow-up conversation, I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t really anything in it that I didn’t already know. And, in reflecting on my follow-up self-conversation, I remained sure of my caring intent with the comment that led to my rebuke. To me, though, the disapproval I had received from my friends clearly indicated the need for me to examine how I share my Christian faith in order that it’s received as intended. So, I determined to do just that.

FOCUS ON A SIN

In the course of making this examination, I thought of a point that I’d heard Pastor Brian Brodersen, of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, make in a teaching from 1 Corinthians. As a side note, I ended up going through 11 of Pastor Brian’s teachings to find what I was looking for. At first, that seemed like a nuisance but it turned out that I was richly blessed through a fresh look at much more of God’s Word than I’d had in mind. Anyway, I did find what I was looking for in Pastor Brian’s lesson, entitled “Tending to Our Own Issues”, based on the following Scripture:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

The point that I had been thinking of was made by Pastor Brian in addressing the part of this Scripture that says, “I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” Pastor Brian’s comments here were: “ … notice, first of all, that the issues of sin go beyond sexual immorality … notice the other sins included there … we have a tendency to isolate a specific sin and focus in on that sin to the exclusion of other sins … that’s part of the problem we have right now, in the current cultural situation, in regard to homosexuality. I think that we, the church in general, have over emphasized this one sin. If you think about it, as we share the gospel with people, generally, we don’t begin by talking about specific sins. But, with homosexuality it seems we focus in on that particular thing. That’s the wrong way to understand it. I was thinking the other day about the idea that so many gay people have in their mind … I’ve heard them say this, ’You think I’m going to Hell because I’m gay.’ The reality is, they’re not going to Hell because they’re gay. They’re going to Hell because they’re lost. They’re going to Hell because they’re a sinner. They’re going to Hell for the same reason an adulterer is and the same reason a swindler is and for the same reason a slanderer is … because they haven’t turned to Christ to have their sins forgiven.” Continue reading

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The Sweet Sound Of Grace

Guest-Post From:

Steve Tessitore, American Missionary in the U.K.

Amazing-Grace-Cross

Verse 1: “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I’m found; Was blind but now I see”

Grace = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

Amazing = A wonderment; way above normal; out of the ordinary; defying the senses.

“How sweet the sound” … Since when does grace make sound?

“That saved a wretch like me” … How does grace making a sound save somebody?

“I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see” … I don’t remember being lost and needing to be found and I have never been blind.

DO WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE SAYING

WHEN WE SING THIS SONG?!

“How sweet the sound” … This is not sound that resonates in the physical ear but in the soul of man. This sound that grace makes is the sweetness of being given a gift, a prize; something immeasurable in value for no reason other than God’s love for us.

“That saved a wretch like me”  The saving is for the eternal soul of a man. It needs saving because man’s end, without being given this gift, is an eternity apart from God.

“I once was blind” … Not physical blindness but the kind of blindness that doesn’t see the trouble I’m in spiritually. I don’t see God’s riches, at Christ’s expense, just waiting for me to receive by faith, believing in Christ’s loving sacrifice of Himself for me.

“But now I see” … Our spiritual eyes are opened by believing in Jesus. We get born again – John 3:3. God’s Spirit helps us to see things as He sees them. He says our sin leads to death, physical and spiritual. God is light and so, where He is, there is light. Spiritual death means separation from God and darkness.

Verse 2: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” 

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear” … How does grace teach my heart to fear when, just before, I was being told how amazing grace was for saving me? As John Newton, the composer of Amazing Grace, was enjoying the sweetness of amazing grace, he was also made aware that this good news comes on the heels of the bad news of the condition of man’s sinful soul. Grace teaching my heart to fear … “for the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23(a) … fear for my soul begins here.

“… and grace my fears relieved” … “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23(b) My fears relieved. In the event of learning why he needed grace, Newton’s heart feared his end if grace was not available to him.

Hebrews 2:9 says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the GRACE of God might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:14-15 continues the principle of Christ dying in our place …”inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same (flesh and blood), that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through FEAR OF DEATH were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Because we are born into the world already spiritually dead to God, Jesus came and applied the circumcision of His flesh to us. That is, He took the chastisement of His flesh, as a man, which we deserved, and forgives us of all unrighteousness, and takes the eternal spiritual arrest warrant that the devil holds over us and nails it to the cross while declaring it … PAID IN FULL! – Colossians 2:13-14 (paraphrased)

“But God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ. By grace you are saved.” - Ephesians 2:4-5

“How precious did that GRACE appear the hour I first believed.”

AMAZING!

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Why God? – The Right Place To End!

Empty Tomb

WHERE TO BEGIN

In my first “Why God?!” article (Why God? – The Right Place To Start!), I noted that this question typically, comes with crying out over hearing of some horrendously evil act in the world or a natural disaster or a friend’s life-threatening illness or a family member’s untimely death or some other form of suffering. I went on to offer encouragement that looking to The Creator is the right place to start in seeking answers to such questions and that He gives us the reassurance of His loving intentions.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

THE PATH TO TAKE

With the second article in this series (Why God? – The Right   Way To Go), I admitted that my honest answer to “Why God?!” questions about evil and suffering in the world is, “I do not know.” However, I pointed out that all the related answers we really need can be found in God’s Word. And, I indicated that in looking for these answers it’s important to start with the understanding that “… from the beginning it was not so.”

Tragically, it was the choice man made with the ability God gave us to love and specifically, the free will He gave us to decide whether to love or not to love that led to evil and suffering coming into His creation. With that understood, I drew attention to the fact that, though it was beyond us to recover from what is commonly known as “the fall of man”, even in His condemnation of that first choice of man, He revealed that He had prepared a path to redemption. Detailing that path and where it leads is what I have in mind with this, the last in my series of “Why God?!” articles. Continue reading

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Why God? – The Right Way To Go.

QUESTIONScreation

In my last article on this question, I pointed out that it seems more commonplace to be expressed as “Why God?!”, in crying out over hearing of some horrendously evil act in the world or a natural disaster or a friend’s life-threatening illness or a family member’s untimely death or some other form of suffering. Of course, this impassioned plea can take on other forms – e.g. “Why did God allow this?” or “Why me God?” or “Why now God?”.

As Atheist-turned-Christian author and apologist, Lee Strobel, said in a speech just after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012 : “(The) ‘why’ question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn’t start any better. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?”

ANSWERS

In initially responding to these “Why God” questions, I have to agree with the response that Strobel gave in that same speech, when he said, “… the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words – ‘I do not know.’” However, God’s Word does provide answers for many of the most common “Why God?” questions and I want to take a look at those answers here.

Though I recognize that it seems out of context for the question, “Why God?”, the first answer that consistently comes to me is the one Jesus gave when He was asked about divorce. Continue reading

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Stand By Me at the Glassy Sea

Ron CoxRonald Ray Cox, a friend from the time of my birth, passed from life on Earth to life in eternity at about 8:32 a.m. (EST), October 19, 2013. Knowing that, it’s likely for you to think that I’m writing this to honor my friend and to tell you wonderful stories from a relationship that stretched out over nearly 70 years. Though I do want to honor my old friend, since there was a gap in our relationship from the time we finished college until about five months prior to Ron’s passing, when he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer, I don’t have those nearly 70 years’ worth of stories to share. Thankfully, I do have the story to share of how I was blessed in reconnecting with Ron at the end of his life and getting to witness how he and his Wife, Kim, embraced God and each other through their final season together.

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