Chosen to Obey

Chosen to Obey (Works #3)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
(1 Peter 1:1-2 NASB)

Honestly I had no intention of continuing on the same topic as the last couple of posts, but I was sitting to read 1 Peter and I got stuck on the first couple of verses. Eventually I finished the chapter, but these first couple of verses seemed to keep coming back to me.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those... who are chosen... to obey Jesus Christ... Can you see that. Peter is writing to the chosen, or to the elect, but what have they been chosen or elected to? The answer is ‘to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.’ The logical conclusion that can be drawn from this passage is that the evidence of someone being chosen is that they obey Jesus Christ. Again, obedience is the evidence of grace, or the evidence of faith. Somewhere in our evangelical decisionism we have lost the truth that obedience is required! Recall from the last post that we are not, never have been, and never will be accepted on the merits of our works, at the same time realize that if the Holy Spirit indeed dwells in you, God will perform good works through you. He has chosen you for that very purpose! Look at the verses again... Chosen to obey.

Maybe this point is too simple, and I am just wasting time by continuing to hit on it, but it is important to see. It is incredibly important to recognize that all good works that come from a believer are really not of the believer at all, but Christ who dwells in them. It is equally important to understand that if Christ dwells in a man good works will be manifest. If you look in the scriptures at the verses concerning predestination and election you will typically find that believers are predestined to something more than just heaven... for instance in Romans we read that we are predestined to be conformed to the image, or likeness of Christ. What does that mean? We are predestined to act like the savior. So are you being conformed to His likeness? Is your life being marked by greater and greater obedience to his commands?

In my next set of postings I plan to deviate entirely from this topic. I have been listening to a lot of John Piper lately and it has got me going back to the scriptures to research joy, gladness, and rejoicing. I must say it is very refreshing to read what the scriptures teach about joy, at the same time it shows me I have great need of sanctification. I write often about how obedience and works are primary evidences of real faith, but it is clear that another primary evidence is joy. Piper is very good on teaching this. His teaching on Christian Hedonism is very good, and has been very surprising to me.


Works Salvation #2

In the previous post I laid out a case for works based salvation making it clear that salvation is based on works performed by God, and not by the believer. The whole point of that post and this one is to make very clear the point that true belief results in practical application. Again, let’s reiterate, Salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone! This is critical to understand, in fact if you believe you have some role in your salvation by performing works, or making decisions, or whatever I would like to kindly say you are wrong. Salvation is entirely the work of God, which is the stance of historical Christianity across the theological spectrum. Both Wesley and Whitefield taught this. Both CS Lewis and Charles Spurgeon taught this. This is not an Arminian v Calvinism debate.

You are saved by the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross, and your salvation from sin and the penalties thereof always result in the working of Christ within you... practically. You say you have faith without works... I will show you my faith by my works. James clears the air very well on this, as does Jesus. “You will know them by their fruit...” Moreover, if you read the entire sermon on the mount, Matthew 5-7 you will find it concludes with teaching concerning whether or a man or woman is saved. You know the verses “many will say to me on that day Lord Lord did we not... and I will say unto them depart from me...” Then the entire message of Matthew 5-7 concludes with this.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall." (Matthew 7:24-27 NASB)

This verse is crystal clear, if you let it be. If you take off your preconceived notions about the role of works in salvation and just read the verse for what it says. First notice “these words of mine” Jesus is referring to the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety, and what is His conclusion? Those who act on these words will not be destroyed in the Day of Judgment. If you look at the preceding verses it is clear the rains and the floods are reference to the coming judgment. It is also clear that those who do not act upon His teachings will not withstand the judgment, their house will fall, and “great was its fall.” So if you take Matthew 7:24-27 as speaking about more than just right living, but speaking specifically about salvation (which is the proper interpretation of those verses) than you must say that salvation in some sense is dependent upon acting upon “these words of Mine.”

So, does a person’s actions with regard to the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount have a bearing on their salvation? Read it... and you will have to say, absolutely. (I am speaking of the teachings, knowing full well that a person does not have to read the Sermon on the Mount to be saved, but even without reading obedience to its commands should be evident.) So can the case be made the obedience is required for salvation? Absolutely! Is obedience to the commands of God a work? How could it not be? Of course it is! So are works a requirement for salvation? I know we are on dangerous ground here, and a misstep could lead us into heresy, but we must say that in some sense works are required for salvation.

Jesus teaches that faith and works are inseparable. Again, you will know them by their fruit. True works are always the result of faith, true faith always results in works. So if faith and works are inseparable, and faith is a gift given by the grace of God (which we know it is) then works as well are the gift of God. Are works required for salvation? Yes, but the ability to perform them, the desire to perform them, the means to perform them, and even the will to perform them are all given to the believer by God. A believer has no place to claim good works as their own, at the same time good works will be performed by every true believer without exception. They are required for salvation, but that requirement is met by Christ working in the believer, not the believer working for Christ.

Salvation is entirely of grace, the performance of works is entirely of grace. Everything good that could ever come out of a redeemed human is only the living water flowing from the Christ which dwells in them. At the same time, if there is no works, it is clear there is no salvation.

It is interesting to see how dead fundamentalists will take this and label it heresy. I see a number of them online calling Washer a heretic on this. Moreover, a number of dead fundis will also label Wesley a heretic, just like the Church of England did. Many men have taught that salvation results in tangible change only to be met by men who were afraid to examine themselves and preferred to just attack the preacher.

Just a closing note on this, fundamentalism is good and important. I often speak of a dead fundamentalism which permeates the internet community and wastes all its time condemning calvinsts or arminians or anyone else who disagrees with them. Blogging, and posting in forums takes no spiritual fortitude, it is the work of dead fundamentalists that listen to millions of sermons, read millions of blogs... and yet haven’t even figured out that they should love their wife, or serve their congregation, or God forbid spend some time in prayer and be open to the moving of God upon themselves. The dead fundamentalist is the one who knows all the doctrines of salvation yet remain unsaved.


What is a work?

First off before you read on it should be made clear that salvation is by faith alone... at least in the sense that nothing you do can earn you salvation, moreover there is no possible way for you to even aid in your salvation. Salvation is of grace, because of the redemptive work of Christ according to the will of the Father, and obtained because of the conviction and empowering from the Holy Spirit. Of course we can turn to Ephesians 2 and see with utter clarity that we are saved be grace through faith and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God. The reason I make this clear at the outset is that the remainder of this post may be misunderstood as a case for works based salvation. It is not! I repeat it is not! At the same time balance needs to be restored to our theology, this line has been drawn, between the spiritual and practical, the secular and sacred, and that line should not exist. People speak about right standing with God without speaking about right living towards God, or vice versa. Both the fundamentalists (I speak of dead fundamentalism) and the postmodern libs have drawn a line between sacred and practical and have chosen to stand on opposite sides of this line that never should have been drawn. The post modern liberal looks constantly at social justice and working for Christ in this world without spending time on the spiritual reality behind the cross, or the magnitude of what had to occur to put people in right standing with God. At the same time the dead fundamentalist uses all their intellect to hammer out a strong logical theology without ever “examining themselves to see if they are in the faith...” So let’s look at some verses (note that my comments following each verse should be true to the context of the verse, not the verse by itself, I am open to correction):

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NASB)

Is taking up your cross and following a work? The plain reading of this verse indicates that taking up the cross is a requirement for salvation, unless you come up with a class of Christians that do not follow Christ, or some other wrangling.

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33 NASB)

Is selling of your possessions a work? The plain reading of this verse indicates that giving up all possessions is a requirement for salvation, unless you come up with a class of Christians who are not disciples, or something odd like that.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB)

Is holding fast a work? What if you do not hold fast, the plain reading of this passage would indicate that holding fast to the faith is a requirement for salvation, unless you come up with a class of Christians that hold fast, and an entirely different class that does not.

"I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3 NASB)

Is repentance a work? This verse is in the context of tragedy, and people questioning the will of with regard to tragedy, nonetheless the clear teaching of Luke 13 is that repentance is a requirement for salvation, unless you come up with a class of repentance Christians, and a class of non-repentant Christians.

We could list hundreds of examples in scriptures where there is an apparent work commanded that must be enacted in order for a person to be saved. The classic verses from James concerning faith and works could be pointed out... Jesus’ admonitions throughout scriptures seem to point to a requirement for works in order to be saved. I would even venture so far as to say that Jesus commands us to take up our cross... means exactly that... WE are to take it up, it does not mean ask Him to take up our cross for us WE have a part in this.

So have I lost balance in this post, do I advocate a salvation based on works! Absolutely not, at least not a salvation based on our works, performed under our power. At the same time if you begin to look at all the commands to ‘work’ in the scripture, and you look at the honestly before explaining them away with some theological formula you will be drawn to ask the very question that could save your soul and put your sanctification on the fast track (I am not speaking of sinless perfection.) The question you could ask is this: “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 10:26) To which Jesus responds "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." (Matthew 10:27)

So what is the point? The point is this, God performs the work, but it is performed in you and through you, both in your inner man, and your outward actions. None of these works are your performance... yet they are required for salvation and performed in you and through you by God. So are works required for salvation? Of course they are... but they are not your works that save you, but by grace God performs works in you and through, for by grace you are saved through faith, not of works it is the gift of God.

I guess what I am trying to explain is that there is a very practical side of salvation that is tangible and plays itself out in every believers life. Works are the manifestation of God dwelling in, and working through a believers life.

I would say that you can find plenty of men who have proper balance right here on SA. See Paul Washer and John Piper, or John MacArthur all Calvinist, or Leonard Ravenhill, A.W. Tozer, or Paris Reidhead all Arminian. Sorry if this who posting was a ramble, but if the Spiritual and the practical coincide in the true believers life.


Good People and Bad Things

This was a message I recently preached to a group of 6-8th graders with little to no church background in their life. We have been laboring week in and week out to lay a foundation, and preach the Gospel to them. We are beginning to see great fruit, including a number of 1st time professions of faith... to which we respond by encouraging them to examine themselves continually to see if the profession is true. Anyway, they asked the age old question, why do bad things happen to good people, this message was the response.

You have asked one of the difficult questions of the ages, a question that every generation of people ask, a question that requires a real gut check, a question that strikes at very heart of what we believe. You asked the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Now before I answer this question you need to understand a few things. Some of you are on easy street right now, you get pretty much whatever you want, you are not experiencing any real crises, so the answer to this question is trivial to you. Others of you have serious struggles with your parents and guardians going on right now, your parents are going through divorce, your life is in a difficult place, and the answer to this question is very important to you. If the answer to this question is not important to you right now, let me tell you, some day it will be.
Let’s Pray
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)
One of the greatest things that God has ever created for us is pain. Seriously, pain is a tremendous blessing from God. Now that may sound odd to you, but let’s think about this logically for a minute. If you fall down running to WOW one day and you cut your leg badly and it hurts a lot, you would say that is a bad thing. However, if you did not feel pain it would be far worse. You see cuts if they are not dealt with eventually become infected, infection can lead to sickness, disability, even amputation. Now let me ask, what is your primary motivation for dealing with a cut? The primary motivation is to stop the pain. You see pain and suffering is an indicator of a greater problem. Now let’s tweak the situation just a little bit, because I do not want you to be confused. Let’s say you are running to WOW and you trip and fall because Sean kicked your legs out from under you. Who is going to feel the pain? You are! So is the pain bad? No! The pain still drives you to deal with the cut so that it does not get infected.
The world has one really big problem! It is this: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 NASB)
Now because of sin in this world, God created pain and suffering. I know that sounds awful at first, that God Himself created suffering, but it is true, and it if we take a close look at it, it is a wonderful truth.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—(In other words the reason for death and suffering is sin) for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (That part is a little confusing, but basically it is saying that by nature we are sinful, it is more than just the fact that we commit sin, but that we are naturally sinful, but check this out) But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (Romans 5:12-15 NASB)
You see, the reason for suffering is sin. However, just like your body suffers and feels pain to alert you to a problem in order that you may be healed, the world has suffering and pain in order to alert us to the problem of sin so that we may seek God and have eternal life. You see, if we were allowed to continue on sinning, without seeing any negative things in the world there would be no reason for us to ever seek God, because we would be entirely comfortable all the time. Yet when we died comfortably of old age we would be met with the harsh reality in eternity that we never sought God, or cared an ounce for Him. The bible says that it is better that we suffer briefly here on earth and live with God in heaven for eternity, than to have a total bliss here on earth, and suffer without God in eternity. We should be thankful that there is pain and suffering in this world, because it drives us to know God more, and to ask important questions about Him, and to seek Him for answers.
Now, there is something else that you need to understand, and this is really important, because if you do not understand this you will have a lot of trouble living the Christian life, and you will be down on yourself a lot more than you should be. Remember at the beginning of this message when I talked about running to WOW falling and getting a cut, and I also spoke about someone else tripping you and getting the cut. See in either case the pain was good, because it helped you to heal, but sometimes the reason for the cut is not your fault. See we have all sinned, and we have all caused people pain, and we all have been in pain because of someone else’s sin. If you are suffering right now it may or may not be the result of your sin. Just because you suffer does not mean it is your fault! If you are feeling depressed because your grades are low but you never study, well that is your fault. At the same time if your parents are splitting up, or a close loved one dies unexpectedly, that is not your fault. But look! In either case the pain and suffering you feel should drive you to pray to God for grace and healing, and peace, and He will give it to you, and while you may be in pain and not happy, you will have an underlying joy and peace, and ultimately a better relationship with God in the long run.
Now there is one more aspect of this question that we must address, it is very important. You see the reason that a lot of people ask this question is not because they actually want an answer to it. The reason a lot of people ask this question is to accuse God of not being fair, and some people ask this question to make the argument that God does not even exist. They have a big problem logically though. If one of you asked me the question “What happens to a good atheist when they die?” I would say “that is easy, they go to heaven.” You would say to me “wait, you said that people need to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to go to heaven.” To that I would respond, “Yeah, oh and by the way could you introduce me to this good atheist you are speaking about?”
Listen, I have said this before, but if I took all of your thoughts, deeds, text messages, things you have done in private, and public, everything you had done just this past month, and put it on display for everyone here to see, you would run out of here as fast as you possibly could. Why, because you would be embarrassed about the things you do, the same can be said of me. Why? Because naturally we are not good! We do bad things we know we should not do, we all do, everyone of us. Whether you are a Christian or an atheist you still are not a ‘good person’ all the time, or even most of the time! So when we ask the question why do bad things happen to good people, we really could answer by saying, “Bad things don’t happen to good people, because good people do not exist!” Also, because pain and suffering and “bad things” draw us closer to God, and make us seek forgiveness, we could actually say they are not bad! Because the verse I read earlier says that ALL things work for good for those who love God. So when we ask the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We could really throw the whole thing out, because God causes all things to be good, so there are no bad things, and also there are no good people.
Now with all of that said, please understand that a lot of times we are in really “bad” situations and they hurt very badly, and often times they are not our fault at all. Are job is not to try to believe the situation is not bad, or that we are not good, but we must remember that in the pain God is calling out to us, so that we would trust in Him, love Him, and be given peace and healing... and ultimately eternal life.
Our God is good, and He is good all of the time! He is so loving, more loving than any of us know. God does not get pleasure in people dying, He does not get pleasure in seeing us in pain, He does not get kicks out of watching us toil and weep. At the same time God does love us enough to allow these things, and even cause these things in order that we be healed, and love Him forever.
I am not sure if that is a satisfactory answer. Some of you youth have suffered more in your short life than I have in my whole adult life, and some of your adult leaders here have suffered tremendous pain, more than you can imagine. What you need to understand is that through it all, God is love, and He is calling us to put our faith in Him.
Let’s pray.