SHORT CHRISTIAN READINGS SELECTED FOR FORMER JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
RELIGION VERSUS RELATIONSHIP
By Daniel Hall
Religion is simply "a form of worship." The only religion which God ever established was Judaism. That religion has been so altered by man over the years, that the religion which God established does not exist today. Therefore, all religion today is from man. Some confuse religion with Christianity. Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. God loves each and every one of us and is reaching out to us through His Son. (Heb. 1:1,2)
Once we believe and receive the Son of God, we are free to worship God any way we wish, within Godly parameters. James said that if we want "religion," a form of worship which is acceptable to God, go and take care of the orphans and widows. (James 1:27)
Jesus said, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." ( John 3:17) Jesus Christ came to bring salvation to the unworthy, to sinners, and it is not based upon a person's religious denomination, theology, or good works. (1 Tim. 1:15; Isa. 64:6)
Our past life course has no bearing on our salvation because when we receive Jesus Christ, God forgives all of our sin. God accepts us just as we are and makes no demands for performance on us. (2 Cor. 5:17-19; Col. 2:13)
Some religious groups claim that salvation is exclusive with them, and only those in their religion will be saved. Truth is that God's salvation is available to all who come to Him. He excludes no one and He doesn't deal exclusively with one group, organization, or religion. He deals with individuals.
No religion has eternal life or salvation to give to anyone and there is not one word in the Bible which even implies that we can get eternal life through a religion or that we must go through a religion to get to God. During this era of grace, salvation is contingent on our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, and nothing else.
No one will be saved and receive eternal life without believing and receiving Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only WAY to God, He is the only TRUTH, and He is eternal LIFE. Jesus is, "the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6)
John said, "He who acknowledges the Son has the Father also." He never said it the other way around. One cannot go directly to the Father. (1 John 2:23) John also said, "He who has the Son has eternal life" (1 John 5:13)
This does not mean we don't fellowship with our brothers in the body of Christ. The Watchtower, and now Harold Camping tell everyone to get out of the churches. Both misapply Revelation 18:4, which is fulfilled at the end of the Great Tribulation. We need to fellowship in Christian churches.
1. God has used the Christian church for 2,000 years to preach the gospel of Christ and call and edify His elect.
2. We grow in grace and peace and in our relationship with the Lord and with those we will spend eternity with.
3. We edify others and are edified by others in the body of Christ.
4. We praise our Lord by fellowshipping, singing, and letting Him speak to us through the Word.
5. We help others in their walk in Christ.
6. There are still many in churches who have not been reborn by the Holy Spirit and are therefore not saved. What a great place to reach lost souls.
GOD ONLY THROWS "COME AS YOU ARE" PARTIES
By Daniel Hall
In the Watchtower and Mormon Church a potential convert is required to "clean up his act." If you remember, we had to discontinue any bad habits, give up smoking, drinking, carousing, swearing, get married, and go door to door. In addition, the Mormons have to give up coffee, soda, tea with caffeine, etc. Both also had to get their lives in accord with all the rules of the Watchtower or Mormon Church.
Now, once a person does all that, they must learn all the doctrines and strange beliefs of the organization. When all that is done, then, and only then, can the person present himself to God by getting baptized into the church or organization.
Think about this arrangement. When a person does this, what is being presented to God? Not the real person, but a white-washed person, a phony, an actor, a hypocrite. God doesn't accept white-washed people. Jesus called them, "whitewashed graves."
Sorry, God doesn't accept phonies and you can't fool God. Let me make this perfectly clear: GOD ONLY ACCEPTS THE REAL PERSON; HE ONLY ACCEPTS US AS WE ARE!
GOD ONLY THROWS "COME AS YOU ARE" PARTIES. We come to Him as we are. Only God can change us, so if God wants to change something in our lives, He does it. Any changes we might make are very, very temporary, anyway. So, no other approach to God will succeed, for God cannot be fooled or conned. So, if you haven't done so already, present yourself to God, who will invite you to His party and receive you and love you just as you are.
However, once we come to Christ, we encourage you to completely surrender to God so that His work in your life is not hindered, so that He can effect necessary change.
Additional point one: Jehovah's Witnesses are baptized by water into the Watchtower Society. Mormons are baptized by water into the Mormon Church. Neither baptism saves anyone! Christians are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Jesus Christ. (Rom. 6:3,4) This is the only baptism which saves and there is a substantial difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Watchtower and Mormon baptisms.
Additional point two: The Watchtower cannot make anyone a Jehovah's Witness and the Mormon Church cannot make anyone a Latter-Day-Saint. Only Jesus can make us Witnesses of Yahweh, Jehovah, or Witness of Jesus, and only Jesus can make us "latter-day saints." What the Watchtower really makes is "Watchtower Witnesses" and the Mormon Church only makes Mormons.
Additional point three: In the 120 year history of the Watchtower and the 170 year history of the Mormon Church, they have never brought ONE person to a life-saving relationship with the real Jesus Christ!
Just like the Pharisees, "They traverse land and sea," but only to make these people candidates for Gehenna. God is undoing what these two anti-Christ groups have done. He will continue to rescue His elect!
By Daniel Hall
I have the privilege of knowing and sharing in ministry with many dear Christians in the Body of Christ. The Lord has also allowed me to assist some in their journey out of cults and legalistic religions and to believing and receiving Jesus Christ for eternal life.
I enjoy sharing with them how Christianity is not a religion, not a specific form of worship, but rather is a relationship with the living God of the universe through His Son, Jesus Christ. Most make wonderful strides in understanding this vital truth and that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2:8,9)
But, there are some issues that many struggle with. First, so many are troubled with questions of their personal standing before God and maintaining their salvation. Second, they are also plagued with guilt over their past sins, current sins, and contemplated future sins. Third, they are afraid they are not doing enough to receive God's favor and continued acceptance. Fourth, they tend to compare themselves with others whom they perceive as better, more active Christians.
When I tell them that salvation is maintenance-free, they don't understand, but accept it. When I ask them, "Would you really want to worship a God who needed your help?" they get the point.
When I explain to them that Jesus paid for all our sins and when He did that, our -sins were all in the future, though they can hardly fathom the concept, they are encouraged by this truth. I reassure them that no one has a leg-up on anyone else and that all who have believed and received Jesus Christ stand exactly the same before God. (Yes, I know this is a redundancy)
New ones have a little difficulty here, and even though they also find this hard to believe, they do accept it. But, what stops them cold is PURE GRACE!
"You mean I can go do anything I want and not lose my salvation?" they ask. Paul dealt with this, asking, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!" (Rom.6:1 ,2)
All who are saved still sin in the flesh, but if someone claims to believe in Christ, but then leads a debauched life, there is the possibility that they were never sealed in Christ, never saved in the first place. Many don't understand pure grace and what it means to live, walk, stand, and grow in the grace of God. Some also forget that God abhors sin and that there is a great price that must be paid in the flesh for sins in the flesh.
When it comes to accepting pure grace, most struggle with the concept. Human reasoning tells us that even if God has saved us by His grace, we must have to do something and certainly we have to maintain certain good behavior for God to continue to accept us and not reject us in the future. We have been taught this from childhood.
The first thing to establish is that everything about God is pure, including His grace, which is pure grace. There is no other kind. Most Christians and Christian religions are attempting to blend God's grace with man's good works. (James 3:17)
Our flesh has the natural tendency to perform. The natural man wants to stand out, to look better and be better than others. Our flesh wants God to love us best. Your mother may have liked you best, but God loves all His children the same. (John 17:23)
Our best deeds are "filthy rags:" to God. (Isa. 64:6) Do you really think that God wishes to mix our filthy rags with His pure grace?
For years, I have been saying that if God gave me just one thing to do towards my salvation, I would mess it up! I recently realized that this truth was proven by Adam, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
If we were able to accomplish one thing towards our salvation, one trillionth of one billionth, of one millionth of 1 percent, God's grace would be gone! God will not allow His grace to be adulterated with one drop of our flesh-works!
This is not a team effort, and God is not our co-pilot. If God allowed us to share in his salvation process, He would be setting Himself up for failure, and God never fails.
If we were required to do one thing, men Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection left something undone. Remember this absolute fact:
JESUS DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION ARE SUFFICIENT
The apostle Paul clearly showed us that our salvation is either of works or it is of grace. "If it is grace. it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. " (Rom. 11 :6)
The rest of this book is dedicated to sharing the many aspects of God's pure grace and to help you learn to study God's Word from the standpoint of pure grace. I will be discussing controversial Issues which are under:5tood differently in the Body of Christ. We need to accept one another, wherever we are in our spiritual growth in Christ.
It is my hope that this book will enlighten you on many vital issues of the Christian faith and that you will come to know more intimately our marvelous God of grace. Understanding the pure grace of God will have a major impact on your life in Christ. By the way, there is no such thing as "cheap grace." The greatest price ever paid was paid by God to supply you with His grace.
Each chapter of this book is complete in itself. Therefore, you may notice some repetition of key points. I am not presenting this information to convince you to take a particular stand on these issues, but to share with you the understanding of God's grace that the Holy Spirit, as our teacher, has given to me. (John 14:26;15:26)
Allow the Holy Spirit to be your guide into all truth. (John 16:13)
"Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
OUR GOD OF GRACE
Growing up in the Watchtower Society as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I thought Grace was some lady who lived down the road. In the old days when we used the King James or the American Standard versions, the Watchtower rarely quoted scriptures with the word "grace" in them. The Watchtower Society removed the word grace from their New World Translation, removing God's greatest gift from the Bible. They replaced it with the term "undeserved kindness."
This term does not describe grace. You might show me kindness that I do not deserve, so even humans can show undeserved kindness. But grace is much more. The word grace (in Hebrew, chen; in Greek, charis) appears 166 times in the pure Word of God. It is basically charity, a free gift of benefit, favor, and blessing.
The root meaning of the Hebrew word is beauty or favor. The root meaning of the Greek word is to rejoice, be cheerful, and is foundational to the words charisma and charismatic.
God's grace is unmerited, unearned, and undeserved favor, blessing, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and love, which only comes from God. The only grace of lasting benefit is sovereign grace.
Of all God's gifts, His grace, as expressed in the person of Jesus Christ, is His greatest love gift of them all. John 1: 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth."
What we have earned and what we deserve is God's justice, not His grace. God's grace is opposed to all human reasoning, and even though our flesh is the constant recipient of grace, it makes no sense to the flesh.
By God's grace through Jesus Christ, He accomplished all things in our behalf. All gifts come from God by means of His grace, including forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, regeneration, and eternal life. Note these grace facts:
1. Grace is a free gift from God, but only through Jesus Christ. We stand in this grace. "Through Him (Jesus Christ) we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand... For if the many died by the trespass of one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many." (Rom. 5:1, 2, 15)
2. We have grace in abundance. "How much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ... but where sin increased, grace increased all the more." (Rom. 5:17, 20) God's grace is unlimited, infinite, without end.
3. We cannot be under both law and grace. "Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Rom. 6: 14)
4. We cannot earn grace. "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; other wise grace would no longer be grace." (Rom.11: 6)
5. Grace is in Us. "The surpassing grace of God, in you." (2Cor. 9: 14) 6. We are "saved by the grace of Jesus Christ." (Acts 16:11) The grace of Jesus Christ is the grace of God. for Jesus is God the Son.
7. Paul opened and closed every letter, except one, with the phrase, "May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."
8. God is the only source of grace. "The God of all grace ... " (1 Pet 5:10)
9. We "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2Peter 3: 18)
10. We are "Stewards of the manifold grace of God. "(1 Peter 4:10)
11. In the last verse of the Bible, God is still emphasizing His grace. "The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. Amen." (Rev. 22:21)
12. Galatians 5:4 says, "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace."
We need to let go of our flesh-works, our works-of-law, for they are opposed to God. All good things are from God and not from us. We have nothing good to offer. It is God who is loving, kind, merciful, and full of grace. It's all God's grace! Live in His grace, for God is wonderful and gracious beyond your wildest dreams.
Grace and flesh-works are opposed to each other just as the spirit and the flesh diametrically opposed. At John 3:6, Jesus said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
Galatians 5:17 says, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against tha flesh, and these are contrary to one another." Flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit and the two cannot be mixed.
To understand the Word of God, first, our spirit must be alive. If we don't have the Spirit of Christ, (Rom. 8:9) which is the Spirit of God, we don't belong to Him and we cannot ascertain the truth of God's Word. (1Cor. 2:14) If you are not sure that you have God's Holy Spirit, pray for God to send the Holy Spirit. He is faithful; He will send Him. (Luke 1.1: 13)
When we read God's Word, we will either view it from the standpoint of legalism or from the standpoint of grace. If we attempt to read the Bible from the standpoint of law, we will not understand God's Word, because it is spiritual and comes from the God of pure grace. We cannot read God's Word from both viewpoints.
Peter said, "No prophecy of scripture springs from any private interpretation." (2Peter 1:20,21) With the Holy Spirit as our teacher, (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13) God's Word interprets itself.
By properly identifying the context of scripture, checking the word meaning, allowing the Word of God to interpret itself, and viewing God's Word from His standpoint of grace, the Holy Spirit will teach us all truth regarding this precious and valuable gift from God, His grace, as revealed In His Holy Word.
THE PURE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND GOD'S GRACE
The pure gospel of Christ is "His death, burial, and resurrection, by which we are saved." (1 Cor. 15:1-4) This is the "grace of God that brings salvation," and it "has appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11)
There is power in the gospel, (Rom. 1: 16) and it was preached throughout the entire Book of Acts, by Paul, Peter, Stephen, Philip, and all the apostles and disciples. This is the gospel of Christ, the good news of the New Testament. It is a gospel of pure grace. It is pure grace because all God asks of anyone is to believe and receive His Son, and God gives us the faith and ability to believe, (Rom.12:3) and moves us to receive the Holy Spirit. (John 6:29; Eph.2:1,5) Salvation is purely by the grace of God through faith in Jesus, for He is the Great Cause of all things, including our salvation.
Besides the many admonitions in the book of John that "whoever believes in Jesus Christ has eternal life," John stated at 1 John 4:15, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and he in God." This salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. (Eph. 2:8,9)
Even some who are saved by this simple arrangement of God, later become obsessed with adding to the pure gospel of Christ. They make up certain intellectual requirements or flesh-works. They want to have some share in their own salvation, so they create a new type of grace, blending God's grace with their intellectualism and works.
God's grace is pure grace. He does not adulterate His pure grace with our flesh works or mental gymnastics. If we accomplished an infinitesimal amount towards our salvation we would brag about it.
But all the praise for our salvation goes to our Lord, who does it ALL!
Do you really want to earn something with God? Paul said, "The wages sin pays is death." With our best flesh efforts, all we could ever earn is death. He continued, "But, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." We cannot earn a free gift.
Some claim that we need more faith, so we should pray for more faith. Let me ask, "What test would you like to go through so you can have more faith?" We need to be very careful what we pray for!
Faith is a free gift from God, and He has given each of us a "measure of faith. "(Rom. 12:3) He has lavished upon us the faith of Christ and faith in Christ, just like grace and all His gifts. (Eph.1: 7,8) We have all the faith we need, for we live by faith. (Heb. 10:38) We "grow" in faith as we make God's gift of faith our own by experiencing our relationship with God and learning to trust Him in all things.
This may bring to your mind the question, "What about sin?"
IS THERE A SIN ISSUE?
By now you may have concluded that salvation is 100 percent by the grace of God. There is nothing we have to do or can do, but accept the free gift by receiving God's Son. That is truly the "simplicity which belongs to Christ." (2Cor. 11: 3)
Some feel that Jesus only paid the ransom price, the rest is up to them, and they don't really need Jesus. This concept demeans what our Lord Jesus accomplished.
Paul said, "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Tim.1 :5) So, who are the sinners that Jesus came to save, and is there a sin issue today?
As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I believed the sinners were the "worldly people." I was only a sinner because of Adam. We need to realize that we are sinners in our own right, and capable of practically anything, given the right circumstances. "There is none righteous, no not one!" (Rom. 3:10)
As we analyze God's Word and His forgiveness, I believe you will conclude that there is no longer a sin issue, except in man's religions. In the Watchtower Society, the Mormon Church, and in other legalistic churches today, there is a big sin issue; but there is no sin issue with God. Of course, we all still sin. "He that says he has no sin is a liar." (1 John 1: 8) The flesh still sins. It is saved only in the sense that it will be transformed. (Phil. 3:21)
God already knows every sin we will ever commit. When Jesus died nearly 2,000 years ago, He paid the price, in full, for each and every sin of all mankind. His final words as a flesh-and-blood man were, "IT IS FINISHED!" (John 19:30) The Greek word is teleo, and means paid, discharged, completed. This dramatic statement has profound meaning. It was the shout of victory that was proclaimed at the end of the Day of Atonement. When the sacrifice was complete and the scapegoat driven out, the people shouted, "It is finished," declaring that their sins had been covered.
Our sin has been more than covered; it was completely blotted out! God removed our sins as far as the East is from the West, and He dumped them into the sea. (Ps. 103:12) How appropriate for Jesus to proclaim, "It is finished!" Because of God's grace, there is no more sin issue. The Watchtower and the Mormon Church insult God's grace by punishing people for sins that Jesus paid for, in full, nearly 2,000 years ago.
Paul assures us, "Being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses."
Let's further analyze the condition of all of us today who have received Jesus Christ for salvation. Notice Paul's amazing words in 2 Corinthians 5:17-19: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation." Note the key points:
1. We have been reconciled to God, are now God's friend, no longer His enemy. Our sins and trespasses are forgiven, but only in Christ.
2. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, to tell people that THEIR SINS ARE FORGIVEN! (by receiving Christ). When was the last time you heard that message? As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I never took that message from door-to-door! The problem is that if the cults or legalistic religions preached that message, they could no longer control everyone, and their tithes or literature sales would diminish substantially.
In Hebrews 10:16-18, Paul refers to the New Covenant and quotes Jeremiah: "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds." Then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin." There is no longer a sin issue.
First John 3:9 says, "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God." We, who are "spirit-born," cannot sin in God's eyes, for the spirit is one with Gad, Who does not look at our flesh. Note the key points:
1. God's law, which is fulfilled in love, (Rom. 13:10) is written on our hearts and minds; not in Brooklyn, New York, Salt Lake City, Utah, Rome, Italy, or any other spot on this earth!
2. Not only has God forgiven our sins, He "remembers them no more."
3. There is no longer any sin issue because 2,000 years ago God paid our sins, in full, forgave us, in full, and He has forgotten them, in full, in the sense that He no longer judges those who receive Christ on the basis of their sins. Why do some exclusive religious groups have elaborate systems of punishment in view of the fact that God has already forgiven and forgotten our sins? It is a self-righteous, Pharisaic system to manipulate and control others. It is not from God.
Such groups have no authority from God to carry out their assault upon the sheep for whom Jesus paid the price. That price, the blood of Christ, paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future. By their actions the cults demean that sacrifice and attempt to limit what Jesus accomplished and diminish the power of God.
John 5:24 says if we believe in the Son of God, we pass from death to life and do not come under judgment. Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ." There is no judgment, no condemnation, and no sin issue for those who believe and receive. Jesus Christ! God's grace provides complete and total forgiveness. The sin which brings death is unbelief. Once we have come to Christ we can no longer disbelieve.
Many Christians are still begging God to forgive them for sins of the distant past. We need to stop continually asking for forgiveness for such sins, and thank God that He has already forgiven us! To keep asking God to do what He has already done is insulting. If a husband asked his wife to fix dinner, but she had already done it, she would tell him so. But, if five minutes later he asks again, she would tell him again, but would be slightly perturbed. If five minutes later, he asks for dinner again, by this time the wife would be getting very upset and might say, "Would you please quit asking me to do what I have already done!" Why do we keep asking God to do what He has already done? Just thank Him!
If I fretted over my sins of the past, I would be miserable. Jesus bore them; I cannot. If we wish to acknowledge our daily sin and ask forgiveness, it is certainly acceptable to God. (Matt.6:12) I do that, but then I remember that my sin is a debt that I cannot pay and that He already paid the debt in full, so I simply thank Him for His forgiveness. We need to be careful that we don't get overwhelmed and totally absorbed in pleading for forgiveness for our many past and present sins in vast detail, for that keeps our eyes fixed on ourselves, on what we are doing in the flesh. But, if we thank Him, it keeps our attention on Jesus and what He did. Keep your eyes on Christ, continually thanking Him for His loving gift of forgiveness.
The Spirit of God in us, His law of love written on our hearts and His grace are the real impediments to sin.
We need to realize that while our Lord Jesus dealt with the eternal aspects of all sin, there still is a terrible price to pay in the flesh for all the sins we commit in the flesh. God did not remove the natural and automatic outworking of sin in the flesh. It has consequences. We reap what we sow.
As we learn more about our real identity; who and what we are in Christ, we will better understand why we do not wish to go back and live like the person we were before, that we have died in Christ and have been freed from sin. (Rom. 6:7)
Paul spoke of those who have "insulted the Spirit of Grace." (Heb. 10:29) We need to face this vital truth: When we attempt to compensate for our sins or perform works to appease God, we insult the' living God. Jesus gave His life and therefore settled all of the issues, including sin and death. (Rom. 8:2) If there were still a sin issue, we would all be in trouble, for everything which is ever going to be done about sin has already been done! It is finished!
The message that God has given to all of us to tell everyone is: God has showered us with His wonderful love and grace, and our sins are forgiven ... forever ... but only in His Son!
What a marvelous God we have. Your sins are gone. Enjoy your wonderful relationship with our God and Lord.
SIMPLE SALVATION; BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
Paul and Silas told the jailer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved; you and your household." (Acts 16:31) Some take this pure message and adulterate it with demands for human performance, expounding elaborate scriptural expositions to support complicated or restrictive guidelines for salvation.
The word translated salvation comes from the Hebrew word yasha or yesha, which means to defend, deliver, preserve, rescue, save. The Greek words are soteria and soterion which also mean to make whole or complete. Receiving Jesus makes us complete. (Col. 2:10)
What are we saved from? From God's vengeance at Christ's second advent, for Paul states, "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might." (1 Thess. 1 :8) We are saved from eternal destruction, which is removal from the presence of God and everything which results from that consequence.
Jesus referred to this many times, using metaphors to describe the indescribable. Jesus warned against Gehenna, the lake of fire, the second death, from hell. While the conditions described by Jesus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus seem similar, that was in Hades, which is only the temporary dwelling place of the dead.
We are saved for eternal life with God. (Rev. 21: 1-5) Eternal life involves more than just being around forever. Eternal life implies bliss forever. So, what must we do to receive eternal life with God?
POINT 1: ETERNAL LIFE IS A FREE GIFT.
1. Romans 6:23: "The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus."
2. Romans 3:24: "They are justified by his grace as a gift."
POINT 2: YOU CANNOT EARN A FREE GIFT.
Romans 4:4: "To one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift, but as his due." You can't earn eternal life by works!
POINT 3: ETERNAL LIFE IS 100% BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. 2 Timothy 1: 9: "He saved us ... not by reason of works, but by reason of His own purpose and grace. "
2. Romans 11: 6: "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace."
3. Ephesians 2:8, 9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast."
Those who claim that we earn salvation by works quote James 2:17, which says, "Faith without works is dead." This is true, but the works are not to earn eternal life. Good works are a natural result of God's grace and the faith and eternal life that. God gives us, take place only after salvation, and are all under the direction of God. Paul said, "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) As James taught, real faith and good works are inseparable.
POINT 4: SO, WHAT MUST WE DO TO GET ETERNAL LIFE?
Here are the only requirements in the entire Bible:
1. John 3:15: "Whoever believes in him (Jesus) may have eternal life."
2. John 3:16: "Whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life."
3. John 3:18: "He who believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned."
4. John 3:36: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life."
5. John 5:24: "He who hears my word and believes ... has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."
6. 1 John 5:11, 12: "And God gave us eternal life and this life is in the Son. He who has the Son has life."
7. John 1: 12: "To all who received Him, who believed in His name, he gave power to become children of God."
The words "whoever," "he who," and "to all" prove that this is written to all people who live, not to a select group in one religion or organization or to an "elite" class of people.
Believe in and receive Jesus Christ. When we do, God "grants us repentance. " (Acts 11: 18) We go to God and repent of trying to earn eternal life by works, and of our unbelief, and ask to receive Jesus Christ, for Him to come into our hearts and live, by faith. (Eph. 3:17)
We were dead in our trespasses and sins, and believed when God moved us to believe. So even belief is accomplished by God.
Some claim that this is "Easy Believism." They are right. God made it easy by doing it all for us. According to John 6:29, belief is a work of God, not a work of man! Don't let anyone tell you that if you don't preach the gospel to someone and they end up in hell, it is your fault! Nobody's salvation depends on what we do. What kind of a God would make one person's eternal life dependent upon what some other imperfect human does or does not do?
Jesus stated at John 5:39, 40: "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have eternal life." We come to Jesus, receive Jesus Christ. In John 6:37, Jesus assures us, "all those who come to me, I will not cast out."
So, what must we do to receive salvation? How do we receive any free gift? We go to the gift-giver, receive it, and say, "Thank you." That's what we do to get eternal life; we respond and receive it! We have about as much to do with our "rebirth" by the Holy Spirit as we did with our first birth. All of the praise, glory, and honor goes to God, the one who accomplishes salvation.
WHAT MUST I KNOW TO BE SAVED?
If I don't understand the "Trinity", am I doomed? A small group in counter-cult ministry claim we must immediately believe in the deity of Christ and His bodily resurrection, or we are not saved. Those who make these claims get themselves into some predicaments. For one, if a person accepts the deity of Christ but not the tri-unity of God, the person would be guilty of polytheism, and in a worse scenario than the person who receives Jesus Christ in faith, allowing the Holy Spirit to teach them who is Jesus.
We should be concerned when men add things to salvation. Receiving Jesus as Lord involves accepting His death, burial, and resurrection, for that is the gospel of Christ which saves. (1Cor.15:1-4)
But, if we require that converts immediately believe the trinity or certain aspects of the resurrection, we make salvation dependent upon correct doctrines and we take the job of the Holy Spirit, the only one who teaches us anything spiritual!
Don Nelson clearly showed in a written expose' on the gospel of Christ, "The deity of Christ, His death, burial, and resuffection are basic tenets of the Christian faith, and acknowledged by all believers. " But Don asked, "Did the man on the cross next to Jesus or the jailer and his household grasp that Jesus was God? (Acts16: 31) Were the converted multitudes of Acts 2, instantaneously and miraculously granted an understanding of the true deity of Christ? Making such demands of converts nullifies the words of Jesus to the evil-doer, Paul to the jailer, Peter to the Jews at Pentecost, Philip to the Eunuch, Peter to Cornielius, and so on. Did it not even take the early Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, years to come to the full realization that Jesus was fully God and fully man?"
God is infinite. If we had to comprehend or apprehend God to be saved, then everyone is "dead in the water."
Demanding that new Christians immediately comprehend deep doctrinal issues would place the burden of salvation back on each person, and be comparable to giving a calculus test to Kindergartners and kicking out those who failed. We are not tested as to what we know, but whether Christ is in us! (2Cor. 13:5)
Most people who receive Jesus Christ struggle initially with many spiritual truths, but, there is a substantial difference between rejecting the deity of Christ or the trinity and not understanding these truths. We are all deeply concerned about anyone who rejects the deity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (John 8:24)
If you are struggling with issues, be patient and keep praying for God by His Holy Spirit to reveal His truth to you. (Luke 11 :13)
WHAT ABOUT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?
First, all Christian religion and prayer was removed from our schools. Then this guy in California decided that he didn't want the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. Then they removed the Ten Commandments from a courthouse in Alabama. Should we be concerned about these attacks on Christianity and God?
Whether words are in a pledge or not, God is in control of all the nations and God's prophecies regarding the nations are all coming true. (Rom. 13:1)
What about the Ten Commandments? The Old Law Covenant was perfect; a reflection of a holy God. Why did God give His perfect, holy, righteous law to imperfect people? To prove to them that they needed the Son as their redeemer. (Gal. 3:19)
Concerning the removing of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse, God did a lot more than take them out of a courthouse; He wiped them out! Paul said, "Having WIPED OUT the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And, He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:13,14) So, the Old Law Covenant was:
1. AGAINST US!
2. CONTRARY TO US!
3. IN THE WAY
It was nailed to the cross with Jesus. The Old Law Covenant, including the Ten Commandments, was our enemy because we could not keep it. Paul said, "For as many as are of the works of law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'" Do you want to be under a curse? Of course not. Paul continued, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'" (Gal. 3: 10-13)
Most of us are Gentiles and never were under the Old Law Covenant, unless we were in a religious cult or legalistic church. To be justified in the flesh, some want to bring the Old Law Covenant back and try to live under it. James said that if we break one point, we have broken the whole law. (James 2:10) Even if we could live up to the law, which we can't, that could never justify us. If it could, then Christ did not need to come, suffer, and die for us! (Gal. 2:21)
Of all the people who have ever lived, how many lived up to the law? ONE! "Through the obedience of ONE! many will be declared righteous." (Rom. 5:19) Only Jesus obeyed the law.
We are under the blessings of the New Covenant and God has written His law of love on our hearts and minds. Paul said, "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people...! will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins, and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Heb.8:1 0-12; Rom.13:10)
Christians do not live under the curse of the law. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus...For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:1, 2)
We are free from the curse of the Old Law Covenant, the "law of sin and death." We are under the New Covenant of love and we are the recipients of all its blessings and benefits.
If we are trying to live up to rules formulated by men we will live our life in the flesh on a treadmill of failure and defeat, we will not receive the peace of Jesus Christ which is beyond all understanding, (Phil. 4:7) and will not enter God's rest. (Heb. 4:9, 10)
The Old Law Covenant was an external form of worship from God, to lead us to Christ. The religion which God established with that covenant does not exist today, therefore, all religion today is from man. Some confuse religion with Christianity. Christianity is not a religion; but a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ.
Once we believe and receive the Son of God, we are free to worship God any way we wish, within Godly parameters. James said that if we want "religion," a form of worship which is acceptable to God, go and take care of the orphans and widows. (James 1:27)
Jesus said, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. n (John 3:17) Jesus Christ came to save sinners, so God's salvation is for the unworthy, for sinners, and is not based upon a person's religious denomination, theology. or good works. (1Tim. 1 :15; Isa. 64:6)
Our past life course has no bearing on our salvation because when we receive Jesus Christ, God forgives all of our sin. God accepts us just as we are and makes no demands for performance on us. (2Cor. 5:17-19; Col. 2:13)
The salvation of God is available to all who come to Him. He excludes no one and He doesn't deal exclusively with one group, organization, or religion. He deals with individuals.
During this era of grace, our salvation is contingent on our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, and nothing else. No one will be saved and receive eternal life without believing and receiving Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only WAY to God, He is the only TRUTH, and He alone has eternal LIFE.
He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6)
The apostle John said, "He who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. "He never said it the other way around. One cannot go directly to the Father. (1John 2:23) John also said. "He who has the Son has eternal life" (1John 5:13)
THE RESURRECTION: THE FOUNDATION OF OUR FAITH
The Watchtower Society claims that the trinity is the central or foundational doctrine of "Christendom." (The Christian church) Again, they are wrong. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the basis of our faith. The resurrection is foundational to the true Christian gospel. For by His death, burial, and resurrection ... we are saved! (1Cor. 15:1-4)
Jesus' death and burial paid for our sins, but His resurrection provides eternal life. Some religions teach that Jesus paid for our sins, removing the cause of death and providing the hope of eternal life. But, that is only a part of God's provision. If Jesus simply died and paid the price for our sins, we would only be back to square-one. We would be like Adam, who at one time was without sin, but didn't have eternal life.
Pastor Robert Housh of Valley Bible gives the analogy of the dead man with a bullet in him. If the coroner removes the bullet he is still dead, in spite of the fact that the cause of death has been removed. What the man needs is life. By the fact that Jesus is fully God and fully man, He is able, not only to pay for our sins, but to give us life, HIS LIFE! (Col. 3:3, 4)
Jesus said, "I Am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me will live, even though he dies, and he who lives and believes in me will never die at all." (John 11 :25, 26)
Paul discussed the importance of the resurrection. He said, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor. 15:13, 14)
Paul then affirmed the resurrection, stating, "So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised incorruptible; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body... For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Cor. 15:41-53)
This resurrection is guaranteed to all Christians who have believed and received Jesus Christ. It is the foundation of our faith. The resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us everything! Without it, we have nothing!
The Mormon Church uses the word, but they deny the resurrection, teaching a form of continual reincarnation, that the spirit takes on new bodies.
The Watchtower Society also uses the word, but they too deny the resurrection and instead teach re-creation. According to Watchtower theology, the Father first created Jesus as the Word and an archangel, then demoted Him to a mere man, then totally destroyed Him, body, soul, and spirit, and then re-created Him as a spirit creature, as an archangel. They claim: "Jesus was dead, he was unconscious, out of existence. Death did not mean a transition to another life for Jesus; rather, non-existence." (7-22-79 Awake!)
In their brochure When Someone You Love Dies, on page 28 they state: "If scientific principles established by the Creator can be used by humans to reconstruct such a visible and audible scene, should not the Creator be able to do far more? Is it not reasonable then, that the one who created life is capable of re-creating it?" (Also, refer to 8-15-2003 Watchtower, back page.)
Nowhere in the entire Bible does it even imply that God re-creates anyone. Strong's Bible Concordance is very clear regarding the Greek words for create.
1. Creator - ktistes
2. Create - ktizo
3. Creation - ktsis
4. Created thing, creature - ktisma
The koine Greek word for re-create is anaktizo. It is nowhere to be found in God's Word. If God was going to re-create anyone, He would have used the word, anaktizo. He did not.
The question arises, If, God re-created someone, wouldn't that be a CLONE; look like the person, act like the person, but not be the same person? God didn't use the word for recreate. He used the word anastisis, which, according to Strong's Concordance, means "a standing up from death; raised to life again; to rise from the dead."
In the resurrection our bodies are changed," "transformed." Paul verified this when he said, "The Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." (Phil. 3:20, 21)
The Greek word translated "change" is metaschematizo, and means "a change, a transformation." The Greek word translated "fashioned," is summorphus, which means "conformed to, fashioned like unto." From these we get the word "metamorphosis," a changing, as from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Without the resurrection, we would have no hope whatsoever.
THANKS AND PRAISE TO GOD FOR THE RESURRECTION!!!
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST AND THE RESURRECTION
There is no controversy in the body of Christ regarding the resurrection. We accept the bodily resurrection of Christ. If there was any basis for controversy, the church likely would have developed one. There is none, but some have attempted to cause confusion and division in the Body of Christ. As a result, some still have questions:
1. Does Jesus have His blood with Him in heaven?
Answer: Some are dogmatically teaching this. This could mean that He has a physical heart pumping the blood, therefore a circulatory system. Where would He get the oxygen which is needed by the blood? Does Jesus also have a respiratory system and digestive system with all of those organs and His system for elimination? Could this mean that there are toilets in heaven?
You quickly see how ridiculous we can get when we speculate on issues that God does not spell out clearly in His Word.
But, there are some facts which we know regarding Jesus blood. Paul said at Hebrews 9:22, "without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sins." The Greek word for shedding is haimatekchusia and means an effusion of blood. The Greek root word is ekcheo and means to pour forth-gush out, run greedily (out) shed (abroad, forth) spill. Effusion is "an excessive and unrestrained outpouring.
Was there blood left in Jesus' body? Very little, as His blood was "poured out" in our behalf. There is no indication in scripture that He got a transfusion to make up for any deficit. In the flesh, our life is in the blood. But now, our life is in Jesus Christ. Does a "flesh and bone" body have blood? (Luke 24:39) No human knows and it doesn't matter.
2. What is Jesus like, now? Answer: We do not know. (1 John 3:2)
3. Where are the bodies of those who have gone to be with the Lord and are awaiting the resurrection to full glory?
Answer: Orthodoxy says, in the grave.
4. Does that mean they have "shed" their physical bodies?
5. What about those whose bodies have been destroyed, those whose ashes were scattered into the ocean, or those lost at sea and eaten by sharks and absorbed into the shark? And what if we eat a shark steak and it has elements of the person?
When we, with our finite minds, attempt to understand the infinite things of God that He has not revealed to us, it becomes silly. In conclusion, if we reject the resurrection, we reject Jesus Christ, for He is the resurrection! (John 11 :25) All believers accept the resurrection, as well as the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
MUST WE BE BAPTIZED TO BE SAVED?
Many religions claim that to be saved a person has to be baptized into their group. Be assured that this is not the case. Otherwise, the man on the cross next to Jesus did not make it into paradise.
Baptism in water is an outward expression of what has already taken place by the Holy Spirit. The baptism which saves us is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, our guarantee of eternal life. (Eph. 1: 13)
This subject illustrates precisely how cults and legalistic religions can take a basic tenet of the Christian faith and completely pervert it. Note the Watchtower Society's program for baptism: A person must:
1. Study in their literature for at least 6 months.
2. Attend all the meetings at the Kingdom Hall.
3. Go in the door-to-door ministry, regularly.
4. Totally clean up their lives, getting them in complete harmony with all the rules, requirements, and standards of the Watchtower Society.
5. Be tested with 80 to 120 questions prior to baptism, ensuring that they have been properly indoctrinated and that they fully accept the Watchtower Society as God's only channel of truth and sole source of salvation.
6. Answer yes to two questions of loyalty to the organization.
7. Be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the spirit directed organization, which means they are baptized into the Watchtower Society and formally made a member thereof.
In the Watchtower and Mormon Church a potential convert is required to discontinue any bad habits, give up smoking, drinking, carousing, swearing, possibly marry, and go door to door. In addition, the Mormons have to give up coffee, soda, tea with caffeine, etc.
Paul said, "Do not be carried away with all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods which are of no value to those who eat them. " (Heb. 13:9) It's grace, not teachings about what we eat or drink!
When a person does this, what is being presented to God? Not the real person, but a white-washed person, a phony, an actor, a hypocrite. Jesus called them, "whitewashed graves." (Matt.23:27)
God doesn't accept phonies and you can't fool God. God only throws "Come as you are" parties. God only accepts the real person, so we must come to Him as we are. Only God can change us, so if God wants to change something in our lives, He does it. Any changes we might make are very temporary, anyway. No other approach to God will succeed, for God cannot be tricked or conned.
If you haven't done so already, present yourself to God, who will invite you to His party and receive you and love you just as you are.
We can see the self-serving arrangement of the Watchtower Society. Not only have they completely indoctrinated the person and have control of their mind by removing the person's belief system and replacing it with their belief system, but they have the person as a member of their organization, baptized into the organization, in the name of the organization, and completely under their control.
Mormonism's program is similar. They too, must clean up their lives, and then they can get baptized into the church, not into Christ. The Mormons also baptize for the dead, which is not condoned in the scriptures. According to Mormon baptismal documents, they even baptized Adolph Hitler into the Mormon Church after his death.
Exclusive and legalistic Christian religions and churches can become almost as silly, practically claiming that unless one is baptized by their pastor, in their tub, holding their King James Bible in their hand, they are not saved.
Notice the difference for real Christians:
1. Paul said we are baptized into Christ, into the body of Christ, not some religion. (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27)
2. We are baptized with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 11 :16; 1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13)
3. We are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19)
4. Christians were baptized in water immediately upon hearing the gospel of Christ. (1Cor. 15:1-4) Please note:
a. Acts 8:36: The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized immediately.
b. Acts 10:48: Cornelius & his household were baptized immediately.
c. Acts16:31-33: Jailer & his household were baptized immediately.
d. d. Acts 18:8: "Many" were baptized immediately.
e. Acts 19:5: "Disciples" were baptized immediately.
Acts 9:35 and Acts 11: 22,24 say these ones "turned to the Lord," "were added to the Lord." They simply came to Jesus, believed and were baptized. There was no waiting period of indoctrination into some group; no test to see if they received the indoctrination properly; and no requirement to clean up their lives and get them in accord with a list of legalistic rules of conduct and self-righteous requirements. God accepted them just as they were! What grace!
Christians are baptized into Christ. That baptism takes place by the Holy Spirit and is what saves us! We can then get baptized in water as a public display and testimony of our baptism into Christ. If there are any changes God wishes to make in our lives, He brings them about after Christ comes to dwell in us, because we cannot effect any permanent change. The Watchtower and Mormon doctrines of baptism and their self-serving requirements for baptism are not the Christian baptism established by Jesus and the apostles.
HOW DO WE "GET RIGHT WITH GOD"?
The other day I was surfing the TV channels and came to TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network). I was surprised to hear a man preaching grace. For a few minutes he expounded the Word of God as it truly is. Then he asked, "So, how do we get this grace?" He hesitated, then said, "There are three things you gotta do to receive this grace."
Up went the big red flag. Whenever anyone uses the phrase, "You gotta," I know they are preaching themselves, not the Word of God. (2Cor. 4:5) He then proceeded to outline the three things.
"First, you gotta believe ... and participate!" If he would have just stopped with believe, he would have been okay. But, he couldn't help himself. What did he mean by "participate"? He didn't explain because he didn't want to use the word, "works".
But his second requirement parroted a very popular phrase today among such ministries. He said, "Secondly, you've got to get right with God!" (The third thing was you gotta humble yourself.)
He didn't explain much about this second grace requirement either, but I am sure that he has an entire list of things that fall under this category, starting with tithing, changing your behavior, etc.
Telling us that we have to "get right with God" implies that we are "back-sliders," another favorite claim of these preachers. So, what is a back-slider? Supposedly a Christian that has been sinning, their flesh not living up to god's perfect, righteous, and holy standards.
First, it is impossible for our flesh nature to live up to God's holiness. (Rom. 8:7,8) Second, our spirit is incorruptible, (1Peter 1:23) so it didn't back-slide. Third, our flesh cannot back-slide. It never came forward in the first place, so how can it go back, or back-slide. God did not fix our flesh. He will do that in the future. (Phil. 3:21)
So, the question is "How do we get right with God"? If there were some flesh-works that we had to do to get right with God, we would be in trouble, because we couldn't do it, for we cannot be justified by works of the flesh. (Rom. 3:24)
When God moved our spirit to believe and receive Jesus, we died to sin and He made us right with Him. We will never be more right than we are this very moment, especially by self-sanctification, or any other flesh-works or self-righteous activities. God sees us right now, seated with Him in heaven. (Eph. 2:6)
Paul said that we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:24) God through Christ has justified us, which means that He has made us right with Him by His grace. If we have believed and received Jesus Christ, we are right with God. Rest in that truth.
WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD FOR YOUR LIFE?
At your local Christian bookstore you can find a number of books on "How to" find the will of God for your life, and "How to" determine God's plan for your life. These are all well and good.
I'm going to cut to the chase and assure you that whatever God's will and plan are for our lives, we are exactly where He wants us. If God wanted anything different, things would be different.
God's will for us is that we believe and receive Jesus Christ, His Son. After that, a specific scripture text which tells us what the will of God is for each of us is provided by Paul when he said, "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for _ God's will for vou in Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
The will of our Lord is for us to be joyful, happy, to have an intimate relationship with Him, and for us to learn to trust Him in everything. So, draw close to the living God and He will draw close to us, in fact He already has because He lives in us and one can't get any closer than that. If we wish to make sure that we miss no opportunity for God to use us to bring blessings to others and praise to Him, we simply make ourselves available to the Lord. He will use us when we least expect it.
Some envy what others seem to be accomplishing with their lives because religion is flesh-works attainment oriented. But, there is no need for such a thing. God tells us at Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, 'declares the Lord,' plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." He has a plan for each one of us. His plan for our lives is glorious!
Of course, the more we become equipped to share the pure gospel of grace and the more we make ourselves available to the Lord, the greater the blessings, and God will make our lives even more fruitful. (John 15)
Let us expand our horizons and ask the question, What is God's will and plan for all Christians? Why did He go to all this trouble? Why did God do things in the way that He did. Why did God create Adam and Eve if He knew they were going sin? Why did the Son of God have to come and die? Couldn't God have just made another perfect man and woman, or just another perfect man to die and pay for Adam's sin?
You might also be wondering things like, Now that I have received Christ, who am I? What am I? Why am I? In the next chapter the complete plan of God is outlined and explained. You will come to know who, what, and why you are and this will provide you the answers to all of the questions I have just asked.
THE GREAT MYSTERY: THE ULTIMATE PLAN OF GOD
The great mystery is the most exciting revelation in the Bible, for it reveals the plan of God as embodied in and carried out through His Son. It tells us why God did things the way that He did. If God knew exactly what Adam and Eve were going to do, why did He go ahead and create them? He could have directly created everyone Himself, but our wonderful God, in His great wisdom, decided to accomplish populating the universe in another manner, "pro-creation"!
By creating man with the ability to "pro-create," you and I have received the gift of parenthood, sharing in creation. Some complain about how God did things and how He continues to do things. But, He does them exactly right and to our greatest blessing. We have shared in the creation and we have received a valuable learning experience that we will likely use in the Millennium.
A. CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY
Paul said, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope, because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. " (Rom. 8:20,21) Verse 18 says, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us." We who receive Christ in this era of grace are the "children of God."
At Colossians 1: 26,27, Paul identified the great mystery, stating, .The mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now made manifest to His saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of the mystery which is: Christ in you, the hope of glory."
The great mystery is Christ in us, the indwelling of our God and Lord by the Holy Spirit. The actual Greek word is ev, meaning, IN. Hundreds of times the Bible expresses the profound truth that Christ is in us and we are in Christ; not "in union with," as the New World Translation inserts. Most Christians know this verse, but not its monumental impact. They think of Christ as a man or in heaven, but they do not see Christ in us! What does this mean? The Son of God dwells in every believing Christian who has received Him. Not only does the Son dwell in us, the Father and the Holy Spirit dwell in us.
We are IN the Father (1 Thess 1 :1) The Father is IN us (Eph. 4:6)
We are IN Christ (Rom. 8:1,10) Christ is IN us (Col. 1:27)
We are IN the Spirit (Rom. 8:9) The Spirit is IN us (1Cor. 2:12)
You may ask, "How can this be and what takes place when Christ comes to dwell in us?" The greatness of the mystery is that these are not symbolisms; they are real. We cannot understand the totality of this mystery because we are finite. However, God has revealed enough for us to realize the wonderfulness of this great truth. Let me assure you that if you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God dwells in you. (John 1:11-13)
Notice also that the only aspect of the great mystery that involves "hope," is glory. If we have something, we don't hope for it any longer. (Rom. 8:24) The great mystery is complete in us, except for our glorification. We have Christ in us and all that implies. We hope for our external glory to match our present internal glory; the rest is already fulfilled in us. (Eph. 2:6)
When we understand God's great mystery, we come to know who and what we are in Christ. We finally know the fullness we have in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, our real identity as children of God, holy and righteous in every way before Him, ONE with God, and loved by our Father God and our Lord Jesus beyond our comprehension.
B. GOD IS CALLING AND CH00SING
Another remarkable truth about the great mystery is that we were chosen by God. All who come to God during this era of grace are drawn by Him, and called, chosen, and elect, as individuals. Note:
1. 1 Peter 1: 1,2: "To the exiles ... chosen and predestined by God ..."
2. John 15:16: "You did not choose me, but I chose you."
3. Rom. 11: 5: "At the present ... there is a remnant, chosen by grace."
4. Romans 8:28-30: " For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified he also glorified."
5. John 3:18: "I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen."
6. 2 Timothy 1: 9: "Who saved us ... with a holy calling, not according to works but according to His own purpose and grace."
7. Ephesians 1:4: "Just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love."
8. John 6:37,44: "Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away ... No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father. "
Question: When did God choose the elect in Christ? Answer: Before the founding of the world. (Eph. 1: 4)
Question: How did He choose?
Answer. By His foreknowledge He predestined or predetermined who was going to be His elect, who was going to be the bride for His Son and reign with Him.
Question: What is meant by foreknowledge? Does this mean that God looked into the future and saw who was going to accept Jesus?
Answer: Not likely. That would make God's will subservient to man's will. The Greek word foreknowledge is "prognosis," to predetermine something or ordain it.
Question: So what method did God actually use to choose? Answer: None of us has even a clue!
Question: For what purpose did God choose the elect?
Answer: As a gift for His Son and to be examples of His grace. Ephesians 2:7 says, "And now God can always point to us as examples of how very, very rich His grace is, as shown in all He has done for us through Jesus Christ."
Those who are not chosen, must be judged. Choose God, which will prove that He has already chosen you and that is why He is revealing His wonderful plan to you!
C. IS THE OLD MAN TRULY DEAD?
The apostle Paul stated over a dozen times that we who have received Christ, "have died in Christ." (Rom. 6:2-10; Gal. 2:19,20; 2Cor. 5:14) We have truly died in Christ, our spirit is no_ alive and we will never die again. (Eph. 2:1) Our body will "die" and be transformed, but our spirit and soul will never die. We had to die in Christ so that we could be wed to our new Master, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 7:4) Therefore, we who are in Christ have already died once. If we could die again, that would be a "second death." The second death is reserved for those who oppose God. We are exempt from the second death. (Rev. 20:6)
We think that our body is going to die, and in a sense that is true. But, in reality, our vile, corruptible bodies will be transformed, changed into our new glorified bodies. (Phil. 3:21; 2Cor. 5: 1-5)
Once God makes our spirit alive, He becomes one with our spirit, so how could God kill it? First Peter 1: 23 says that we are born again by an incorruptible seed by the Word of God which "liveth and abideth forever."
The spirit of Adam could die, and did. God's Spirit dwelt in Adam, but God did not become one spirit with Adam, as He has with us. God's Spirit is now one spirit with our spirit. (1Cor. 6:17)
If we could die, lose out on eternal life, then God's Spirit, which has now become one with ours, would have to die, which is impossible. God would become eternally separated from Himself.
Paul said, "For the love of Christ compels us, because we are convinced that one has died for all, that those who live, might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and was raised." (2Cor. 5:14,15) Then, in verse 17, Paul says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." The old man is dead! We now live no longer for ourselves; we live for Christ, because once we receive Christ, the old creation dies. The Adam-man died, and that was represented by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus Christ is the tree of life; He literally is life.
Besides many other places in Paul's letters, six times in Romans Chapter 6, Paul stated that we died in Christ, and that now we are alive in Christ:
1. Romans 6:3: "All who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into His death."
2. Romans 6:4: "Therefore we have been buried with Him by baptism into His death."
3. Romans 6:5: "We have been united with Him in a death like His."
4. . Romans 6:6: "Our old self was crucified with Him."
5. Romans 6:7: "We have died with Christ."
6. Romans 6: 11: "Consider yourselves dead."
The old man is dead! You might ask, "What do you mean he's dead? He sure acts like he's alive!" This is a very important key point: What is death? Death is separation from life. God is life, so death is simply separation from God. From God's perspective the old man is dead, separated from Him.
The question is, "Are we going to try to resurrect the old man and live like he did, or are we now going to live in accord with the new person, the new creation we are in Christ?" We literally have a fork in the road, two paths for us to take, "two lives" before us. Are we going to live in accord with the flesh or in accord with the spirit? Each one must choose. If we choose to live in accord with the flesh, and many do, we will miss out on the real Christ-life and this great mystery will only benefit us in the future. But, if we choose to live the Christ-life now, our blessings will be manifold.
Many attempt to fill their need for love and acceptance by flesh-works. If after God effects salvation in our life, we still want to gratify the flesh, still want to hold on to our will, it seems that God allows us to do this, to "spit and sputter," struggle with the flesh, carry the whole load, and do whatever stupid things we want to do in the flesh. (For which we will pay a very high price in the flesh) This does provide a tremendous learning experience for us, but, after God has accomplished all that He has for us, why would we want to live in accord with the flesh, paying the price now for self-gratification and losing rewards when we appear before our Lord? It makes no sense.
We not only died with Christ, verse 5 also says, "For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His." We have died in Christ, and just like Him, we will never die again! The only change will be the transformation of our corruptible bodies into our new glorified and incorruptible bodies, made in the heavens. (Phil. 3:21; 2Cor. 5:1-5)
We now live the Christ-life. Paul said, "For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." (Col. 3:3,4) Christ is our life, and now our life is part of the great mystery; our life is hidden with Christ and will be fully revealed in glory. The "body" of Christ, His "bride," must be glorious, all for the glory of God.
Because God did things as He did, we who have received Jesus Christ have a relationship with God that He never had with any created angel or with Adam. This is the great mystery and was God's plan and purpose from the beginning. God knew exactly what He was doing, and it was all to our benefit and blessing and to His glory!
D. BIRTHING OF THE NEW CREATION
Now that we are a new creation, in Christ, we are now a "temple" of the living God. (1Cor 3:16; 2Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:22) We have been reborn by the Holy Spirit. Our initial birth was into Adam, into death. We were born spiritually dead! We had to be reborn spiritually alive, into the family of God. Jesus said we must be "born again" to see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
What has taken place within us is the birthing of a new creation in Christ. Our spirit, which was dead, God has made alive, and united with His Spirit to form one spirit, making us one with God. (Eph. 2:1; John 17:22,23) Paul said, "He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him." (1 Cor. 6:17)
Christ now dwells in us and we have become Christ-in people, "Christians." Jesus Christ now lives through us. Jesus was in the form of the flesh-and-blood nature, but "we no longer know Him according to the flesh." (2Cor. 5:16) So, He comes to mankind and shares His love by living through His "body," the Bride of Christ, the "church." Jesus accomplishes God's will through us, the "new creation," which is a uniting of the Spirit of God with our spirit, combined with our soul, which is being transformed to be fully conformed to our newly alive spirit, reflecting the mind of Christ, but still encompassing our own individual personalities, talents, and abilities. We experience and share in the miraculous things of God, as though we were accomplishing them ourselves, when, in fact, God is doing all the work. (Eph. 2:10)
God has given us His righteousness, His holiness, and has sanctified and justified us so He can live in us and through us. You may wonder how God does this. The best example I can give you is what God accomplished through the men who wrote the Bible. We can identify each man by his style of writing, yet the words are the words of God to us. In somewhat the same way, Christ lives through us, as the new creation. God doesn't take away from our individuality; He actually augments it; and because we are totally free in Christ, He allows us to be who we really are, with all of our idiosyncrasies, because that is the real you and me. God chose us just as we were.
Therefore, while the love of Christ is the same in us all, the expressions of the Christ-life are as diversified and individual as we are. We are now living the new life in Christ. God has literally birthed millions of sons and daughters and adopted us into His family. Do not get confused here. Jesus is the Son of God by NATURE. We, as real Christians, are Sons of God by ADOPTION! (John 1: 11,12)
The Great Mystery, the ultimate plan of God, was hidden through all the generations of man. (Co1.1: 26) The apostle Paul was the one chosen to reveal this wonderful mystery to us, that men could now become one with the Creator of the universe! (Col. 1: 27; John 17:23)
Why did God do such a thing? One possible reason is that we all like to have close friends, especially friends with whom we can have a close relationship and communicate with. The glory of God is so great that the created angels could barely dwell near His presence.
The gap between Creator and created creature is infinite! How could anyone have an intimate relationship with God, especially considering the fact that man was initially separated by infinity, and then by sin, which resulted in another gap between God and man, death. Death is truly separation from God, who is life. The death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ took care of the gap" of sin and death. (Rom. 8:2) But, what about the gap of infinity? Could anyone, even God, bridge the gap of infinity? Because God now dwells in us, we can now have a One-on-one relationship with God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God revealed, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty oflha children of God." (Rom. 8:20,21) God literally bridged the gap of infinity!
Do you have any idea what kind of creature you are now? Although God's spirit was in Adam, God never became one spirit with Adam or the angels.
Because God did things as He did, we who have received Christ have a relationship with God that He never had with any created creature, until Pentet05t. We are truly a "new creation in Christ." (2Cor. 5:17) When we receive Jesus Christ, God dwells in us, we become one spirit with Him, and Christ lives His life through us, the new creation! (1 Cor. 6:17; Gal. 2:20; 2Cor.5:17)
We now have an intimate relationship with God! So, Paul said, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need." (Heb.4:16)
E. THE NEW GIFT-LIFE IN CHRIST
Christians use phrases like "I gave my life to Christ," or "Since I accepted Christ, He has changed my life." These are heartfelt expressions, but what has taken place is even more remarkable. We were "dead in our trespasses" (Eph. 2:1) and had no life to give to Christ, and He already bought us and paid the price, so we could not give Him something He already owned. Additionally, real Christianity involves more than just a changed life; it is a new gift-life. Christ giving us a new life, His life, a wonderful gift of God!
By now, regardless of whether you are a Christian, were a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon, or of any other religious persuasion, you should realize that salvation is simply a matter of "believing in" and "receiving" Jesus Christ. If you have not yet received Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so. This is a very personal matter. Simply go to God the Father and tell Him that you repent of your error and your sin (which is unbelief) and your attempt to earn eternal life by works. Tell Jesus you believe in Him and accept Him as the Son of God, that you are submitting your will to His, you want a personal relationship with Jesus and the Father, thank Him for His grace, and ask Him to come into your life. When you do this, you are reborn by the Holy Spirit, you become a child of God, and your name is written down in the book of life.
Many will still feel that they are inadequate in some way, that they are not worthy. We are all inadequate and no one is worthy; except the Lamb! Again, as with all our other gifts, His worthiness is imputed to us. Remember, it is through the righteousness of ONE, we are declared righteous. (Rom. 5:18)
We must understand that we cannot live the Christ-life without Jesus Christ. Only Christ, who lives in and through us, can live the Christ-life. This is not a team effort of Christ and us. One of my greatest lessons was to realize that I couldn't do it! Even as a Christian, I still can't do it! Until we realize this vital truth, we will continue to struggle, continue trying to do what we cannot. Jesus came and accomplished what He did, because we couldn't. If we could do it, then Jesus suffered and died for nothing!
Romans 1: 17 says, "The righteous shall live by faith." We live this Christ-life by faith. Faith too, is a free gift of God. (Rom. 12:3) He gives us the faith of Christ and faith in Christ, 50 we can enjoy the Christ-life. Paul specifically stated: "I have been crucified with Christ; it Is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. "(Gal. 2:20)
At this point, some might think of Ephesians 6:14 as something that we must do. The Watchtower uses this verse, and we were told that we had to put on the armor of God as follows:
1. Have our loins girded with TRUTH. (This was Watchtower doctrine)
2. Put on the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Our holiness)
3. Have our feet shod with the gospel of PEACE. (Watchtower gospel)
4. 4. Put on the shield of FAITH. (This was faith in the Watchtower)
5. Put on the helmet of SALVATION. (Salvation by Watchtower works)
6. Take up the sword of the spirit, which is the WORD OF GOD. (This was Watchtower doctrine and the New World Translation.)
BUT, LET ME ASK YOU:
1. Who is the TRUTH?
2. Who is our RIGHTEOUSNESS?
3. Who is our PEACE?
4. Who is our FAITH?
5. Who is our SALVATION?
6. Who is the WORD OF GOD?
Answers: JESUS CHRIST! It is all Jesus Christ. He is our everything. (Col. 3:11) Since Jesus dwells in us and we are clothed in Christ, (Gal. 3:27) we have on the complete suit of armor from God, and we are complete in Christ. Jesus is all we need. The idea that we lack something is a misconception. "We are complete in Him." (Col. 2:10) Once we receive Jesus Christ, we lack nothing.
Those in the Watchtower are so programmed to doing. The Watchtower Society keeps demanding more until the flesh gives out, and then they discard the person. Many Christians suffer bum-out as well, because they try to accomplish things in the flesh, instead of letting Christ live his life through us. Man's religions keep us working for what we already have, trying to become who we already are, by doing what has already been done! God wants us to enter His rest (Heb. 4:6) so He can live through us. We can't enter His rest until we give it all to Him and let God direct our lives, trusting Him, submitting our will to His. So, surrender. If God wants us to do something, we will know it. His works are done through us. (Eph.2:10)
Most of us want to be told how to do everything. All right, I will tell you how to surrender. There are four steps:
STEP #1: SURRENDER (your will to His) - After you complete step #1, go to step #2.
STEP #2: SURRENDER COMPLETELY - You likely didn't surrender completely in step #1. After you complete step #2, go to step #3.
STEP #3: RE-SURRENDER COMPLETELY - You likely took your problems back. So, RE-SURRENDER COMPLETELY. After you complete step #3, go to step #4.
STEP #4: TOTALLY RE-SURRENDER COMPLETELY - Just give up and realize that only God can and will get it all done. Let Him do it in His time and His way.
It is not our natural tendency to let go of the things we have been carrying so long. Millions of dollars are being paid to storage companies each month because people cannot let go of their things.
Surrender was hard for me to do, but I finally faced these facts:
1. God has the complete picture and does a better job of running things than I do. All I did was interfere with His good plans for my life.
2. He has the ability to enforce His will over mine, anyway.
3. He loves me more than I love myself (He's God and He's Love).
4. He saved my life in two ways, physically and spiritually.
5. He gave His life for me, paid all my sins, bought and redeemed me. He owns me.
6. His yoke is kindly and His load is light. (Matt. 11 :29, 30)
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the body and accomplishes what He wishes through it. We are human beings. not human doings. God does not need us to do anything. Again, I must ask, "would you really want to worship a God who needed your help?"
We want to just abide in Jesus Christ, the vine. (John 15:16) He just wants us to BE and to have a relationship with us. Just be, and rest in Him. An doing will be done by God. (Eph. 2:10)
F. WHY HAS GOD DONE ALL THIS?
Besides having creatures with whom God now has a one-on-one relationship, God has elevated us above all other creation.
1. Who are we? (Those whom the Spirit of God now indwells) We are children of God, the Bride of Christ, and co-heirs of the universe.
2. What are we? We are .new creations," creatures that did not exist before Pentecost, when 1st Century Christians became one spirit with God. (1Cor. 6:17) We are complete in Christ, with all the fullness of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Co!. 2:10) We have all the fullness of His love, joy, peace, kindness, mercy, and grace.
This has already been accomplished by God's grace. The only thing we have yet to hope for is our external glorification. (Col 1 :27) The Bride of Christ will be glorious for the glory of God.
Another reason that God has done all this is so we can rule with Christ during the millennium and judge the world and angels. (Rev. 5:10; 1Cor. 6:2,3) This is all done by God, so there is no room for pride or boasting.
3. Why are we? Besides being examples of God's grace for eternity, (Eph. 2:7) Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:26-28)
God views all things the opposite of the way man does. Jesus ministered to His disciples; He washed their feet! God has raised us up to this lofty position so we can serve others. We will serve others when we rule with Christ and we are here to serve others now. Just as there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving, there is more happiness in serving than being served! (Ads 20:35)
So, "Enter into the joy of your Lord" by serving others. Matt. 25:21) I truly hope that you have come to know who, what, and why you are in Christ. Knowing this sets us free to live in God's pure grace.
FELLOWSHIPPING WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST
When a person receives Jesus Christ and they are in a Christian church of any kind, they usually stay in that fellowship. However, when someone in the Watchtower or Mormon church receives Christ, some stay temporarily to help their families, but they eventually leave. Though they are free to fellowship anywhere, even at the Kingdom Hall or Mormon Church, their newly alive spirit (Eph 2:1,5) cannot bear hearing the humanistic and anti-Christ message, nor the constant adulation of the "organization" and "Governing Body" of the Watchtower or the Mormon church leaders.
God established the early Christian churches as autonomous! They were not under surveillance by a Governing Body or Apostolic Council in Jerusalem. All Christian fellowship is beneficial and an opportunity to be encouraged and built up by the Word of God and our association with those with whom we will spend eternity. Jesus said that where two or more were gathered, He would be there. Are you currently fellowshipping with other members of the body of Christ, so that you can edify them and in turn be edified by them, so that all are being built up in love and in the faith, to the fullness which belongs to Christ? (Eph. 4:11-16)
The Watchtower Society uses Hebrews 10:24,25 repeatedly, to tell Jehovah's Witnesses that they must attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Paul was referring to fellowship, meeting together, but not where Christians would receive information designed to program their minds for obedience to some religion or organization.
This is a very difficult issue for Jehovah's Witnesses, for they have been told that all the churches are evil, under the devil, and full of demons. This is simply a control mechanism. What the churches are full of is wonderful Christians, praising and serving God the Father and rejoicing in Jesus Christ the Son. If we don't fellowship we will not progress as quickly in understanding the real truth, the wonderful grace of God, and learning to live the real Christian life.
God established the provision of fellowship in the first century, and even though man has developed ecclesiastical systems, God has used the Christian churches for nearly 2,000 years to gather His elect and edify His body, His church, and to maintain pure doctrine in regard to the essentials of the orthodox Christian faith. This provision is still functioning today and qualified church leaders continue to work together as Christ's body to resolve Christian issues.
If you wish to grow in grace, find a Christ-centered, non-legalistic fellowship. God has a fellowship for every different type of person, including one for you. Pray about it. He will direct you in your search.
Sanctification: Have We Been or Will We Be?
A. SANCTIFICATION. A WORK Of GOD
Webster's dictionary says that sanctification means "to set aside for a special purpose, especially a sacred one; to make holy, pure, righteous, free from sin." There are slightly differing viewpoints in the Christian church in regard to sanctification.
Most Christians agree that we have already been made holy and righteous, that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us.
POINT 1: WE HAVE BEEN SANCTIFIED! (PAST TENSE)
1. 1 Corinthians 1 :2: "To the church of God... to those who al1t sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints."
2. 1 Corinthians 6:11: "And such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified. but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
3. Hebrews 10:10: "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all."
But, what has been sanctified? If we have received Christ, our spirit has been made alive, has been "reborn by an incorruptible seed. " (1 Peter 1 :23) The "new creation" in Christ is holy, righteous, incorruptible, sanctified (set aside for a holy purpose), and can not sin! (2 Cor. 5;17; 1John 3:9).
POINT 2: WE ARE BEING SANCTIFIED
Is our mind, heart, and soul holy, righteous, incorruptible sanctified, completely cleansed for God's holy purpose? Not exactly. Mind, heart, and soul are terms we use to identify our mental comprehension, our moral conscience, personality, and center of motivation. Our mind, heart, and soul are being sanctified through their renewal and transformation.
Paul asked: "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14) "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Rom.12:2)
Our conscience is our moral comprehension or awareness, our ethical analysis of matters. God is cleansing it from dead flesh works to serving Him. God is changing our mind, which was in accord with our flesh, to be in accord with our now alive and incorruptible spirit. Paul said, We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. " (2Cor. 3: 17,18)
How about our flesh, the outer man? The old flesh-man is not sanctified, for he is dead. What about our temporary dwelling place, our mortal bodies? God has imputed righteousness to our body so He can dwell in it and make it a temple to His glory. (1 Cor.3: 16, 17) He has imputed righteousness, holiness, and sanctification to our bodies to serve as His temple, just as He imputed righteousness to Abraham. (Rom. 4:22-24) But, our corruptible bodies will be transformed, be sanctified in actual reality, and made incorruptible at our resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:53)
Paul affirmed, "The Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body that may be conformed to His glorious body." (Phil. 3:21)
POINT 3: THE KEY POINT IS THAT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WE CAN DO TOWARDS OUR OWN SANCTIFICATION!
Some feel that since there is a process of sanctification still going on in us, we must make a diligent effort to be holy and righteous. The danger here is that when a Christian feels he must do something to effect his sanctification, he finds himself on a tread-mill of flesh-works and performance in an attempt to accomplish his sanctification. If we did anything towards our own sanctification, that would be self-sanctification, self-righteousness.
When we say, "We gotta, we need to, we have to, or we must," the problem is that. . . we can't. Attempting to follow external rules, either self-imposed or from God, does not and cannot, sanctify us. So, who or what is involved in sanctification?
1. God - "To those who are sanctified by God the Father." (Jude 1)
2. Jesus - "To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus." (1 Cor.1 :2)
3. The Holy Spirit - "Elect ... in sanctification of the Spirit." (1 Peter 1 :2)
4. Truth - "Sanctify them by truth; Your Word is truth." (John 17:17
5. Faith - "Those ... who are sanctified by faith in Me." (Acts 26:18)
God is the only One who accomplishes sanctification. Some will respond that we must make a conscious effort to desist from sin and resist bad habits, and in that way we contribute to our sanctification. WRONG! Resisting sin and desisting from it are a major part of the life of a Christian, but resisting sin does not, in itself, change our mind or heart one iota! We may spare the flesh from the results of sin we resist, but that does not sanctify our mind or heart. All we do is temporarily put off sin, while still maintaining wrong desires.
"He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1 :6) Only God can change our heart, our mind, our soul! Only God can change us! Only God can sanctify us!
Most of what we do hinders God's wonderful work which He is doing within us. There is absolutely nothing we can do to contribute towards our sanctification, except to surrender to our God and Lord. Yes, reading the Word and filling our minds with God's truth is a part of that surrender.
Paul said to meditate on the things which are true, noble, pure, and virtuous. (Phil. 4:8) Simply reading the Word doesn't necessarily change us, but it places us in the proper mode for God to do His sanctifying work and it feeds our minds on things of the Spirit instead of things of the flesh.
At 1 Corinthians 3:3, Paul stated that some of the Corinthian Christians were "carnal." Carnal means fleshly, worldly. It is obvious that Paul was not talking to their reborn spirit, which wasn't carnal in any sense. Was he talking to their flesh nature, telling their flesh that it was flesh? Of course not. He was speaking to their minds, their hearts. Their thinking was still in accord with the flesh, the world, and they were looking to and being guided by their flesh, instead of their newly alive spirit.
All of Paul's extensive counsel in regard to our lives in this flesh is not directed at our flesh, but at our minds, to renew and transform our minds and hearts to follow the leading of our spirit. If Paul was outlining a moral code of ethics or behavior standards which our flesh had to live up to, he would be in complete contradiction of himself, since he clearly explained that it is not by works, but by grace.
Paul next told the Corinthians that they were "behaving like mere men." We, who are in Christ, are not mere men or women! We who are reborn by the Holy Spirit should not be behaving like "mere men."
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit must transform our minds, teaching us who we are in Christ, convincing us of the absurdity of living like the rest of the world, now that we are who we are, in Christ! Resisting sin or desisting from sin does not make us who we are. We resist and desist because of who we are.
We need to consider the viewpoint of God. Our minds and hearts are being sanctified by God, but, He sees us complete in His Son and reigning with Him in heaven. (Eph. 2:6) When God sealed us with the Holy Spirit, that was a guarantee that He would finish the work He started. (Eph. 1:13; Phil. 1:6)
Some consider that our righteousness and sanctification are complete because God "calls things that are not, as though they are. " (Rom.4:17) God considered the payment for sin made by Jesus as already completed before the founding of the world because it was absolute; it was guaranteed by Him. (1 Peter 1 :19, 20)
In a sense, God has imputed everything to us, even the things which are not yet accomplished in the physical realm.
Paul's prayer in First Thessalonians 5:23 is assured to us who believe. He said, "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Any way you wish to view sanctification, we can leave it with God, for it does not involve a conscious effort on our part. In spite of us, GOD will finish the miraculous work that He began.
B. WE CANNOT FIX ANYONE
When others share problems with us, our natural reaction is to fix it or to tell them how to fix it. Most do not want to hear how to fix their problems and they don't want us to fix them. All they really want is a hearing ear and some symp'athy and empathy.
In counseling ministry the majority of discussions involve problems of our loved ones; mates, children, grandchildren, etc. We are rightly concemed with their circumstances and difficulties. But, the fact is that we can't fix them. I hear myself saying that rather frequently.
While we can provide advice and counsel them in love, we don't want to judge or condemn them. The best thing we can do is pray for them, love them, and share Christ if the opportunity affords itself. Even Christ didn't come into the world to judge or condemn it, but to save it! (John 3:17)
If there are changes to be made in the lives of our loved ones, only God can accomplish such changes; only God can sanctify them just as only God can sanctify us. He is faithful and He will do it. What a load it takes off our shoulders once we learn this vital truth.
A few years ago, while traveling through the Canadian wilderness, I was praying and meditating, asking for some answers. Suddenly, from deep within I had the overwhelming urge to repeat the words of the Nursery Rhyme, "Humpty Dumpty."
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again.
I kept repeating it over and over again. It made no sense at first. Then I began to realize the deep meaning. I indeed had a great fall; my life was shattered, and I was trying to put all of the pieces back together; but it wasn't working. God was telling me that it was not to be; at least not by my strength and wisdom. If all the King's horses, which represents great strength, couldn't do it; and all the King's men, which represents great wisdom, couldn't do it, then I certainly wasn't able to fix it.
Notably absent is the King's ability to make everything right. Not only is He the only one who can, He does what we cannot do. The poem should read like this:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again.
But the King can, so I'm told,
And He will make the new, better than the old.
Not only is it a fact of life that we cannot fix our loved ones, we can't even fix ourselves! So, fix-it-men and fix-it women everywhere, repent! Listen to them, love them, share the love of Christ with them, pray for them, and let God, the Great Renovator, fix them. And, when God fixes us, we are fixed!