How to Have the Courage of a Lion

I read about a mouse who was terrified of cats until a magician turned it into a cat. That gave the mouse-turned-cat great courage until it was chased by a dog. The magician then turned it into a dog, and the mouse-turned-cat-turned-dog was again filled with courage. But the courage only lasted until the creature was chased by a lion. When it returned to the magician in the expectation of being turned into a lion, the magician said, “Even if I gave you the body of a lion, you would still have the heart of a mouse” and turned it back into a mouse.

The Bible says that Saul stood a head taller than anyone else in Israel (1 Samuel 9:2). By all rights, he should have been the one to accept the Philistine giant Goliath’s offer to engage in a one-on-one showdown with the outcome of the battle between Israel and Philistia at stake. Why, then, didn’t the battle between Israel’s tallest and Philistia’s tallest happen? It didn’t happen because Saul didn’t have the courage for it. As 1 Samuel 17:10-11 says:

And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. (N.K.J.V.)

By contrast to Saul’s physical size, David was just a youth (1 Samuel 17:33,42) who wasn’t even fully grown yet. What he had, though, that Saul lacked was the heart of a lion. Not only did David volunteer to face Goliath (1 Samuel 17:26-37), he even trash talked the giant (1 Samuel 17:41-47), and ran out to him (1 Samuel 17:48).

We know how that encounter ended, don’t we? But let’s not focus upon that outcome. Let’s focus, instead, upon the courage it took to even go out there and face a man almost ten feet tall. How could a teenage boy have such courage? The answer is: David got it from the Lord. Consider a couple of statements from David (both from the N.K.J.V.):

  • Moreover David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)
  • Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, who you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…”” (1 Samuel 17:45-46

These words show that God was the source of David’s great inner courage. And have you heard that God wants to provide you with that same type of courage? No matter what giant you are facing, God can give you the heart of a lion to face it.

Of course, David lived in the days of the Old Testament, a time before Jesus (God the Son) left heaven and came down to the earth to die as the substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. That simply means, though, that you and I have even more revelation of God to work with than David had. You see, David’s “Lord of Hosts” is Jesus, a fact He will prove one day when He returns to the earth and decisively wins the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:1-21) that will end the seven-year tribulation period that is prophesied to come upon this world.

So, just as Jesus gave David courage in the Old Testament era, He can give you courage in this New Testament era if you will only place saving belief in Him and let Him be your “shepherd” (another one of David’s depictions of the Lord: Psalm 23:1-6; John 10:1-30). Time and time again in the pages of the New Testament we find Jesus saying to His followers, “Fear not” and “Don’t be afraid.” On the one hand, He wouldn’t have had to keep saying that if people weren’t naturally prone to fear. But on the other hand, He wouldn’t have kept saying it if He didn’t mean to supply His followers with the courage to overcome their fear. Keep this in mind, Christian, as you face your Goliath, and go out to meet that giant not in your own strength but in the strength of your Savior. Be like David, do your fighting in the name of the Lord and let the Lord of Hosts make you victorious.

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Letting Go & Letting God

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6, K.J.V.)

“Don’t worry.” That advice is a lot easier given than accepted, isn’t it? The temptation is to respond to the advice-giver by saying, “You’d be worried too if you were dealing with my problem.” I read recently that stress is the basic cause of death for more than half the people who die before age 65. That stat came from no less an authority than The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Years ago, I came down with a strange ailment that I had never had before and haven’t had since. For a period of a few weeks, large raised welts popped up all over my back at unpredictable times. They would appear, itch like nothing should ever be allowed to itch, and then subside after several minutes of me scratching hard enough to almost break the skin.

I first guessed that the welts were being caused by an allergic reaction, and my attempted remedy was to change the shower soap I was using. But that didn’t help. Then I got to thinking that the problem might have something to do with the laundry detergent I was using. But that wasn’t it either.

Finally, I paid a visit to our local medical center. I’ll admit that I was thoroughly stunned when the doctor told me, “It would be nice if the welts were being caused by an allergic reaction, but I think it’s more likely that they are being caused by stress.” I was a teenager at the time, not long out of high school, no wife, no kids, and no mortgage. My days were spent working my job in a convenience store, and my nights and weekends were spent playing some type of ball. What did I have to be stressed about?

To this day, I still don’t know why those welts came or went. All I know is that after a few weeks they stopped making their periodic appearances on my back. Did I change my lifestyle in an attempt to lower my stress level? Not really. Like I said, I didn’t think I was particularly stressed anyway. Still, though, I’ve never forgotten that doctor’s diagnosis, and I thought of it when I read that recent finding from The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those of us who know the Bible well are very familiar with Philippians 4:6, this post’s text passage. Some translations of the verse read “Don’t worry about anything” rather than “Be careful for nothing.” Others use the word “anxious” as in “Don’t be anxious about anything.” I myself favor that translation because I can be anxious about something without drifting into full-blown worry about it. But God doesn’t even want me to be anxious.

These days I’m a long way from that carefree teenager I used to be. Much to the contrary, I’m plenty stressed. No, I don’t have the outer raised welts to prove it, but I’ve sure got ’em on the inside. You say, “Russell, you just need to take your stresses to God in prayer.” Oh, I do. Really, I do. But the problem is that I don’t always leave them with Him. You see, when 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we are supposed to cast all our cares (our anxieties, our worries, our stresses) upon God, that means that He doesn’t want to play catch with us as we toss them back and forth. Instead, He wants to catch them and never throw them back to us. You’ve heard that old saying “Let go and let God” haven’t you? Well, that saying really does apply when it comes to casting our cares upon God. It’s just a shame that we don’t always put it into practice.

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Which Direction Does Your Life Flow?

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, N.K.J.V.)

In his commentary remarks on this passage, John Phillips provides us with a wonderful illustration regarding times of backsliding in the life of the saved person. He writes:

People who profess to be saved but who live as though they weren’t are self-deceived. It is not that a saved person cannot fall, and have a need to be restored to fellowship. It is a question, really, of the flow of a person’s life.

For instance, the river Nile flows north from the great lakes of Central Africa to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Between the fifth cataract and the fourth cataract the great river turns west and then south. Between the fourth cataract and the third cataract it turns again and heads northwest. At Derr, the river changes direction yet again and heads straight for the delta.

If someone at a point just beyond Derr were to be asked, “Which was does this river flow?” he would say “south,” but he would be wrong. The river flows north. Its various twists and turns are not the normal and general direction of the flow but only temporary aberrations.

The same thing is true of the genuine believer. The great question is, in what direction does his life flow? Is it toward holiness? We see David commit adultery, we see Jonah run away from God’s call, we hear Peter deny his Lord with oaths and curses, we see Elijah run away from Jezebel, and we hear Abraham deny Sarah in Egypt and again in Gerar. The stream seems to be bent. But look! There is David on his face weeping and writing his tear-drenched penitential psalms; there is Jonah heading for Nineveh after all; there is Peter preaching boldly to the multitudes; there goes Elijah confronting Ahab again; and there is Abraham heading for Mount Moriah. The real flow of life has simply reasserted itself. Things have straightened out. The life still flows toward holiness. The main direction of life has again become clear.

It is not that saved people cannot fall into the kinds of sins which characterized them in their unregenerate days. However, they do not continue in those sins. They bitterly repent of their fall and seek cleansing and a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. They continue on their way toward heaven. The unregenerate have no such current toward holiness in their lives. They habitually sin and excuse themselves for it.

Can a truly born-again Christian ever commit any of the sins on Paul’s list from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? Yes. Whether the sin be adultery, homosexuality, some other type of sexual sin, idolatry, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling (being loudly abusive toward another), or extortion, the genuine Christian is not exempt from committing it. This is particularly true if that Christian showed a penchant for that sin during pre-conversion days.

But what a truly born-again Christian can’t do is commit any such sin without being brought under the indwelling Holy Spirit’s conviction over it. This means that the Christian can’t honestly enjoy the sin in any kind of consistent way. He or she can feel the sensation of the fleshly pleasures of the sin for a brief amount of time (Hebrews 11:25), but those pleasures will always be temporary. Soon afterward will come the conviction, the guilt, the shame, and the remorse. Then will come the confession, the repentance, and the restored fellowship with God. The relationship won’t need to be restored because, once that relationship has been established through the salvation experience, no amount of sin or backsliding can ever sever it.

Just as a pig can wallow in a mud hole for hours on end and love every second of it, a lost person can wallow in a sinful lifestyle for years and enjoy it thoroughly. By contrast, the Christian who is born again, regenerated, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit simply doesn’t have the spiritual stamina to unashamedly maintain such a lifestyle. To use John Philipps’ illustration, the flow of that Christian’s life will eventually correct itself and get headed back in God’s direction. Really, we might say that when God saves a person, He ruins that person’s ability to enjoy sin. He doesn’t tell you that when He saves you, but it certainly doesn’t take you long to figure it out once you are saved.

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Translation Issues from the Life of David

On Wednesday nights for the past several months, I’ve been preaching a series of sermons on the life of David. As part of my studying to prepare those sermons, I’ve had to deal with a couple of textual difficulties. One is found in 2 Samuel 15:7 and the other one is found in 2 Samuel 21:8. Because the translation I preach from at church is the King James Version, both difficulties involve the K.J.V.

I’ll start with 2 Samuel 15:7, a verse found in the context of the story of how David’s son Absalom temporarily stole the kingship from him. 2 Samuel 15:4-7 says in the K.J.V.:

Absalom said moreover, “Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the Lord, in Hebron.

The problem here is not that the K.J.V. translation team wrongly translated the original Hebrew of 2 Samuel 15:7. No, the Hebrew text really does say “forty.” The problem is that “forty” seems to imply that Absalom spent forty years buttering up the people in Jerusalem before he began his coup attempt against his father. Why is that a problem? It’s because David reigned for only 40 years in total (2 Samuel 5:3-5; 1 Kings 2:11), and for the first seven-and-a-half years of that reign he wasn’t even king over the entire nation. Instead, he reigned exclusively over Judah, the territory of Israel’s two southernmost tribes.

Furthermore, during David’s seven years in Judah, his royal residence was in Hebron rather than in Jerusalem, the city in which 2 Samuel 15:7 takes place. Also, even though Absalom was born during David’s years in Hebron, he certainly hadn’t been born yet when David first came to the throne there (2 Samuel 3:2-3). What all this means, of course, is that Absalom couldn’t possibly have spent forty years in Jerusalem winning over the people of Israel before he stole the kingship from David.

So, how do we explain the K.J.V.’s “forty years” of 2 Samuel 15:7? Well, two explanations have been offered. One is held by those who think the K.J.V. is a perfect translation (“God’s preserved word for the English language” to use their definition). The other one is held by those who think the K.J.V. is a reliable translation but not a perfect one.

The first explanation, the one the “K.J.V. only” advocates present, is that the forty years in question have to do with David rather than Absalom. As the explanation goes, the words “And it came to pass after forty years” mean that forty years had passed since the prophet Samuel had anointed David as king over all Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13). As you might know, Samuel anointed David approximately fifteen years before David literally sat upon any throne as a king. Those fifteen or so years were marked by King Saul, who refused to abdicate the throne, constantly seeking to kill David.

The second explanation, the one favored by those who don’t hold to the “K.J.V. only” viewpoint, is that “forty” is simply a Hebrew scribe’s copying error that should read “four.” This would mean that Absalom swayed the hearts of the people for four years before attempting to overthrow his father. In support of this explanation is the fact that “four” is used in the Syriac translation of the Bible. That translation is called the Peshitta and it is one of the oldest translations we have, dating all the way back to the 5th century, Additionally, some versions of the Greek Septuagint translation read “four” instead of “forty,” and even the Jewish historian Josephus favored “four” over “forty” in regards to the text.

I myself have no trouble believing the text should read “four.” It just fits the story so much better than trying to bring David’s anointing from decades earlier into the plot at that point. For that matter, why should we single out David’s anointing as the event that marked the beginning of the purported forty years? There’s certainly nothing in the story to suggest that we should do that. Really, though, it’s pretty much just the “K.J.V. only” people who cling to the idea of “forty” years in the verse. Virtually all of the modern translations — the English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, the New Living Translation, the New Revised Standard Version, etc. — render the time period as “four” instead of “forty.”

Now let’s move on to the problem found in 2 Samuel 21:8. The K.J.V. of that verse reads:

But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.

In this instance, the problem is that the name “Michal” seems to be wrongly used in place of “Merab,” the name of Michal’s sister. Merab, not Michal, was the wife of Adriel the Meholathite (1 Samuel 18:19), and Merab was the one who bore him five sons. Michal was childless (2 Samuel 6:23).

Those who take the position that the King James Version is flawless are quick to point out that the verse doesn’t say that Michal actually gave birth to the five sons. To the contrary, it calls the sons those “whom she brought up for Adriel…” This implies that Michal, having no children of her own, more or less adopted the boys and raised them. There is no reason given for why Merab, their biological mother, would have stepped aside and let her sister raise all of her boys, but nevertheless that’s the way the story reads in the K.J.V. It is also worth noting that here again the problem isn’t in the translation. The original Hebrew text from which the K.J.V. translators worked does use the name “Michal” instead of “Merab.”

But hold on a minute. There are two other Hebrew manuscripts of this text, ones not used by the K.J.V. translators, and those two texts do use “Merab” instead of “Michal.” Along the same lines, the second-century version of the Greek Septuagint translation uses “Merab” instead of “Michal.”

And then there is the strongest piece of evidence that the name should be “Merab” instead of “Michal.” That is the fact that the original Hebrew word the K.J.V. translators rendered as “brought up for” in the verse is yalad, That’s the classic Hebrew word for “bare” and it’s translated as such in the K.J.V. dozens and dozens of times in the Old Testament. Obviously, when the K.J.V. translators came to yalad in the original Hebrew of 2 Samuel 21:8, they were faced with a serious dilemma. The same text that read “bare” (yelad) also read “Michal” even though 2 Samuel 6:23 flatly states that Michael had no child unto the day of her death. How could the K.J.V. translators soothe over this glaring contradiction? They did it by forcing the translation phrase “brought up for” onto yalad for this one instance. Needless to say, this is a big reason why virtually all the modern translations break rank with the K.J.V. (as they do with “forty” and “four” in 2 Samuel 15:7) and go with “Merab” instead of “Michal” in 2 Samuel 21:8.

Obviously, you can consider this post an advocacy for the need to consult multiple translations to get at the truth of any piece of scripture. Not only am I not “K.J.V. only,” I’m also not “N.K.J.V. only,” “N.I.V. only, “N.A.S.B. only,” E.S.V. only,” “N.R.S.V. only,” N.L.T. only,” or “H.C.S.B. only.” I do believe the original manuscripts of the Bible’s books were all perfect and completely without error, each one being divinely inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), but I don’t believe any one translation is perfect. A perfect translation would require a perfect team of translators, and no translation team, even the K.J.V. translators, have ever claimed to be perfect.

Even if we could find a perfect team of translators, we couldn’t possibly know for sure which Old Testament Hebrew texts and New Testament Greek texts are perfect. Since the original manuscripts of each of the Bible’s books has been lost to history, what we have now are merely scribal copies of copies of copies of copies of each book. Many of these copies are not even fully intact but are instead only portions or mere fragments. Regarding any type of copy, we’re not talking about a copying machine copy, either. We’re talking about a handwritten copy painstakingly done by some scribe through untold hours of tedious work.

The good news is that we have literally thousands of these copies to consult. The bad news is that even though all the copies stand in perfect agreement 99% of the time, there are slight differences in them. These differences are all exceedingly minor — a punctuation here, a word or phrase there, a difference in name on occasion — but they are real.

Some people say, “Just go with the oldest copies (i.e., the ones produced in the years closest to the original source manuscripts) because they have to be the most accurate ones.” Actually, however, the oldest copies don’t necessarily have to be the best. If a certain scribe made a certain error early in the historical streamline of a certain copy, that error would be perpetuated in all the copies that were made from that copy. That’s how an older copy from a error-marred chain of copies could actually be less accurate than a newer copy from a more accurate chain of copies.

Are you beginning to see now why it’s good that translation teams have a plethora of copies from which to produce their translations and why it’s good that we have a plethora of translations to study? In this day and age, we don’t even have to go out and spend a ton of money buying all these translations. All we have to do is visit websites such as BibleGateway.com. There we can find dozens of translations for free.

I consult that particular site frequently in my studies, and I encourage you to do the same. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much new light can be shed on familiar passages that you have only read from one translation, and you’ll also be able to get a ton more insight into problematic passages such as 2 Samuel 15:7 and 2 Samuel 21:8. Hopefully, through it all, the word of God will become more vibrant and relevant to you that it has ever been, and that in turn will translate (do you see what I did there?) to you serving the Lord better than you ever have. That, after all, is the goal, right? I mean, all the copies of Hebrew and Greek texts ever found and all the translations ever produced from them won’t do us any good if we don’t put their plain-as-day teachings into practice. That’s how we turn the written word of God into the living word of God, and it’s how we elevate the Bible to its proper place in our lives.

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That Something You Won’t Give Up

Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18:18-30 all give us the story of Jesus’ conversation with a rich young ruler. The ruler begins the conversation by asking Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” By studying the story in total, however, we learn that the young man probably wasn’t so much worried about receiving forgiveness of his sins as he was about setting himself up in the afterlife to the level of abundance he enjoyed in earthly life.

How do we know that his intention wasn’t merely to receive forgiveness for his sins? We know it because he claimed to have no sins for which he needed forgiveness. When Jesus said to him, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ Honor your father and your mother'” (Mark 10:19), the young man confidently stated, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” That was clear proof that him being under acute conviction of his sins wasn’t what had brought him to Jesus.

At worst, the young man was a boldfaced liar who claimed to be sinless. At best, he was delusional about not only his own sin nature but also what constitutes sin. (Perhaps he hadn’t heard Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the sermon in which the Savior had explained that sins are committed inwardly as well as outwardly.) I’ll be charitable and go with the latter interpretation to explain the young man’s statement about his lack of sin. Either way, though, he had no real understanding of just how spiritually lost he was.

It is noteworthy that Jesus included on His partial listing of the commandments, “Do not defraud.” Unlike the others on His list, that one isn’t one of the Old Testament law’s famous ten commandments that are named in Exodus 20:1-17. While it’s possible that “Do not defraud” was simply a loose paraphrase of the law’s tenth commandment (“You shall not covet”), it’s probably more likely that Jesus purposely worded the commandment that way because He wanted to address the outward sinful conduct (defrauding others) that can arise from the inward sinful desire (coveting). If this was the case, it isn’t hard to theorize that the rich young ruler had acquired some of his wealth by means of defrauding others, even if he didn’t admit to it.

Whatever the young fellow had going on in his life, Jesus harpooned him when He told him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Following that, we read that the young man was sad and went away in sorrow because he had great possessions. Translation? He wasn’t about to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, even if that actually would have gotten him into heaven.

Obviously, Jesus knew that even such a radical act wouldn’t get him into heaven anyway, and so why did He bother to float out the suggestion? He did it to expose the young man’s true God: wealth. Jesus knew that by asking for such an extreme commitment, that young ruler would have to quit playing games with religion (adhering to a works-based salvation) and be forced to come to terms with his own sinful worldliness. To sum up, Jesus’ suggestion brought that seeker to a “Get Real” or “Get Out” fork in the road, and that seeker chose the “Get Out” fork. Jesus’ 12 apostles, men such as Matthew, James, John, Peter, and Andrew, had been brought to that same fork in the road by Jesus and had chosen to forsake all and follow Him. They stood in stark contrast to that rich young ruler. That fact wasn’t lost on Peter when he said to Jesus later in the story, “See, we have left all and followed You.”

But now let’s turn our attention to us. What things in our lives are preventing us from following Jesus the way He wants us to follow Him? The rich young ruler’s wealth was his impediment, but there are other possible impediments. For example, a job can be an impediment, as can a relationship, a hobby, or an addiction. You see, your impediment is that one thing you won’t give up even if it keeps you from fully accepting Christ’s call to follow Him. Think of it this way: If your arms are so filled with anything or anyone that you can’t use those arms to take up the cross and follow Jesus, you have something in common with the rich young ruler. As we’ve seen, he refused to empty his arms of his impediment and take up Christ’s cross. The question now is: Will you make that same mistake?

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Having Spiritual Discernment

1 John series: (post #12)

This post marks the conclusion to our series from 1 John. As we have learned from the series, John uses his book to name at least ten identifying characteristics of authentic Christianity. In other words, if you, as a professing Christian, want to have full assurance that you really are saved, look for each of these ten evidences in your life. The legitimately born-again person should find them on full display. If they are not on display, it’s possible that you are an actual Christian, but it will be impossible for you to ever have full assurance about the matter.

I’ll relist the first nine evidences as my conclusion to this post, but for now let’s jump right into evidence #10. I’ll call this one “having spiritual discernment,” and the text for it is 1 John 4:1-6. John says:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (N.K.J.V.)

Did you catch the litmus test that John mentioned to those Christians of his day? It’s found there in the closing words of that passage. John says of himself and the other apostles, “We are of God (he could have added in, “We aren’t false prophets”). He who knows God (referring to the true Christian) hears us; he who is not of God (referring to lost people) does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

This would be like me standing in the pulpit of my church and saying to the congregation, “I am a God-called preacher, not a false prophet. Therefore, if you are a true Christian, you will listen to what I say, heed it, and apply it to your life. And if you won’t do that, well then, you obviously don’t have any spiritual discernment about you, you obviously don’t know how to test the spirits to see whether or not they are of God, and you obviously are a lost person.”

That’s some test, isn’t it? If I tried that with my congregation, they would say, “Boy, he sure does have a high opinion of himself, doesn’t he? How dare he make how we respond to his teaching the test of whether or not we are saved people.” But John and the other apostles could get by with laying down such a test.

Notice also what John says about false prophets just before he offers his test. First, he says they are “of the world.” That term “the world” refers to that Satanically driven, anti-God system that I talked about in post #6 from this series. Second, he says they speak as “of the world.” Third, he says the world (lost people) hears (listens to, heeds) false prophets.

Why do lost people listen to false prophets so enthusiastically and heed their teachings? It’s because the false prophets are speaking their language, the language of “the world.” The lost person hears the preaching of the equally lost false prophet and says, “Yes, that sounds right to me.”

John then follows all that up by saying, “But the true Christian will be able to tell the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Putting it another way, the true Christian will have spiritual discernment enough to differentiate between God-called preachers and false prophets.

How could John be so sure about this? The answer is: the Holy Spirit who dwells inside each born-again Christian. The Holy Spirit can tell the difference between false prophets and God-called preachers, and He can inwardly relay that information to the Christian. That’s why John says in the last part of verse 4, “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Now let me now wrap up this post and this series by quickly listing 1 John’s ten evidences of a real-deal salvation experience one more time. As I name each of these evidences, I’ll ask you to do a mental checkup and see where you are with each one.

  • #1: The true Christian desires to fellowship with other Christians.
  • #2: The true Christian walks in the light of Jesus.
  • #3: The true Christian keeps Christ’s commandments.
  • #4: The true Christian loves his or her fellow Christians.
  • #5: The true Christian doesn’t love the world.
  • #6 The true Christian continues in the Christian faith.
  • #7: The true Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • #8: The true Christian works at purifying himself or herself from sin.
  • #9: The true Christian receives what he or she requests in prayer.
  • #10: The true Christian has spiritual discernment.

So, where does John’s list find you? Does your supposed salvation stand up well to the ten evidences? If it does, then praise God that you are saved and enjoy the assurance that comes with knowing that you are on your way to heaven. But if your supposed salvation doesn’t stand up to John’s test, there is some business that you need to do with the Lord because you are either saved but backslidden or just downright lost. Neither way is what the Lord wants for you. Not only does He want you to be saved, He wants you to know that you are saved and live your life accordingly. That’s what a “know so” salvation looks like in action, and it’s every Christian’s privilege to have one.    

Posted in Assurance of Salvation, Discernment, Preaching, Salvation, Series: "1 John", The Holy Spirit, Truth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Receiving What You Request in Prayer

1 John series: (post #11)

So, you say that you are a Christian. Okay, that leads me to believe that you know how to pray. But let me ask you a question: “Do you regularly receive what you request in prayer?” According to the apostle John, you should. As a matter of fact, he even named it as one of the verifiable proofs of a true salvation experience.

We find this in two passages from 1 John. The first one is 1 John 3:21-22, where John writes:

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (N.K.J.V., boldfaced emphasis mine)

The second passage is 1 John 5:14-15, where John says concerning Jesus:

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (N.K.J.V., boldfaced emphasis mine)

Please notice that neither of these passages can be considered a “blank check” for the Christian in regards to prayer requests. To the contrary, John names multiple stipulations that factor into the whole equation. Those stipulations are:

  • The Christian must keep God’s commandments. (3:22) (This kicks back to post #4 in this series.)
  • The Christian must do things that are pleasing in God’s sight. (3:22)
  • The Christian must ask for things that are according to God’s will. (5:14-15)
  • The Christian must have a heart that does not condemn himself/herself. (3:21)

I purposely listed that one about the heart last because it requires some explaining. What exactly does John mean when he says, “…if our heart does not condemn us…”? We find the answer in 1 John 3:18-20, the verses that come just before the stipulation in question. Those verses say:

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (N.K.J.V.)

In verse 18, John says that Christians should love in deed and in truth, not just in word or in tongue. (This kicks back to post #5 in this series.) Then, in verse 19, he says that if Christians love in this way, two things will happen. One, they will know they are of the truth. Two, they will have the assurance of their salvation in their hearts.

You see, the level of assurance a Christian has in regards to being saved, as well as the level of confidence that Christian has in regards to getting prayer requests granted, is dependent upon how that Christian lives. If he or she lives a life of merely talking about Christian love rather than actually showing it, his or her assurance of salvation and confidence in prayer will run low. John describes this as being condemned by one’s own heart. On the other hand, if that Christian loves not only in word but also in deed, his or her assurance of salvation and confidence in prayer will run high. This will keep that Christian’s heart from spitting out condemnation because of the hypocritical behavior.

Please understand that John isn’t suggesting that the Christian’s eternal standing with God is somehow swaying back and forth waiting to see whether or not that Christian shows love “in deed and in truth.” No, performance has nothing to do with a person either getting saved or staying saved. What John is saying is, “Even if you are a genuine Christian, if you aren’t showing love by your actions, you are giving yourself reason to doubt your salvation. That doubt, in turn, will cause your heart to condemn you, and that inner condemnation will keep you from having confidence that God will grant your prayer requests.”

By the way, don’t miss the fact that both of our text passages specifically use the word “confidence” in regards to the Christian asking for things in prayer. I must admit that I struggle in this department, not because I’m secretly living the life of a hypocrite but because I’ve asked God for many things that I just simply did not receive. Trust me, if enough of your prayer requests never become reality your confidence in prayer will take a hit, too. As I’ve had to do on several occasions, you’ll find yourself asking, “God, why didn’t you grant that request?”

It’s at that point that you will need 1 John 5:14-15, the second of those two passages that I cited earlier. The stipulating phrase in that passage is “according to His will.” John wants us all to know that God isn’t a cosmic Santa Claus who is only in business to grant our wish lists. For Him to grant a request, that request must be in alignment with His will. This basic tenet of prayer applies to every Christian, whether that Christian be backslidden on God or faithfully serving Him.

But let’s not get so bogged down in all these stipulations that we lose sight of the fact that receiving what you request in prayer is a major evidence of your salvation. Just as the proud earthly father of an obedient child will grant many of that child’s requests, the Christian’s heavenly Father will grant many of the requests made by His obedient child who keeps the commandments, does things that are pleasing in the Father’s sight, and lives a life of loving service to others. Even when the Christian has to wait for God to grant certain requests, God’s delays are not His denials. As James 1:17 tells us, every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from God the Father. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us in the least that it’s perfectly normal, even required, for a Christian to request things in prayer and have God grant those requests. That’s clear evidence of genuine Christianity.

Posted in Assurance of Salvation, Fatherhood, God's Love, God's Will, Grace, Prayer Requests, Salvation, Series: "1 John" | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Purifying Yourself From Sin

1 John series: (post #10)

Some people say, “There’s no way you can know for sure that you are saved because only God knows who is saved and who isn’t.” These folks have surely missed the purpose of the book of 1 John. The writer himself, the apostle John, says of the book, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, N.I.V.). Knowing that you have eternal life is the same as knowing that you are saved and on your way to heaven.

We are now coming down the home stretch of our blog series from 1 John, a series in which we’ve been listing ten of the salvation evidences that John names. This post will be all about evidence #8 from that list. I’ll call this one “purifying yourself from sin.”

John talks about this evidence in just one passage from 1 John, but the passage is an extended one. It’s 1 John 3:2-10, and it reads as follows.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself (boldfaced emphasis mine), just as He is pure. Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (N.K.J.V.)

Well, all of that is a mouthful, so let’s pick the passage apart by by pulling out some key thoughts from it. First, in verse 3, John says that everyone who has the hope of seeing Jesus just as He is (and that’s a reference to Christians) purifies himself. Second, the beginning of verse 6 says: “Whoever abides in Him (Jesus) does not sin…” Third, the beginning of verse 8 says: “He who sins is of the devil…” Fourth, the beginning of verse 9 says: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin…” Fifth, verse 10 teaches that lost people (people who aren’t children of God) do not practice righteousness.

And so what exactly is John teaching in all this? Does he mean that the true Christian will never commit even one sin after getting saved? No. We know that he doesn’t mean that because in 1 John 1:8-10 of this same book he tells Christians what to do when they do sin. Obviously, then, when he makes statements such as, “Whoever abides in Christ does not sin” or “Whoever has been born of God does not sin,” he’s not describing some kind of sinless perfection the Christian will live out on a daily basis.

Instead, the context of these statements is the key to understanding them. They come on the heels of the chapter’s 3rd verse, which tells us that everyone who has the hope of seeing Jesus face to face when He is “revealed” (N.K.J.V., N.R.S.V.) or “appears” (N.A.S.V., N.I.V., H.C.S.B., E.S.V., N.L.T.) purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure. The point is, the statements all elaborate on the idea of the Christian purifying himself or herself.

By keeping John’s train of thought in sequence, we see what he is saying. He’s saying that the true Christian will work continually (day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade) at purifying himself for the purpose of becoming more and more like Jesus. And as a natural evidence of that ongoing purification, that person’s life will be marked by righteousness rather than unrighteousness. The older that person gets, the more like Jesus he or she will become, which will inevitably translate to less and less sin in the person’s life. At least that’s how the Christian life is designed to work.

Admittedly, even the Bible indicates that it doesn’t always work that way. The scriptural examples of this inconvenient truth are numerous. The Christians of Corinth were an unholy mess who had a scandalous reputation. Jesus rebuked the church of Ephesus by saying to them, “You have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4). He rebuked the church of the Laodiceans by saying to them, “….because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). Paul made no bones about the fact that Demas had fallen in love with the world and forsaken him (2 Timothy 4:10). These examples and others that could be named prove that even genuine Christians don’t always do a good job of purifying themselves (sinning less and less) to make themselves more like Jesus.

Still, though, John’s contention is that this is how the Christian life should work. In other words, this is what normal Christianity looks like. Therefore, show me a professing Christian who has no interest whatsoever in purifying himself or herself and attempting to become more and more like Jesus, and I’ll show you a person who has a right to doubt his or her salvation.

Will us true Christians ever purify ourselves to the point of living lives completely free from sin? Nope, that won’t happen as long as we are confined to these earthly bodies of ours, bodies marred by the inborn Adamic sin nature. Ah, but there is coming a day when Jesus will appear to us — that day when we will see Him as He is — and John says, “On that day we will be like Him.”

If we live to see the moment of the Rapture, we will see Jesus “as He is” in the sky above the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). On the other hand, if we die before the Rapture occurs, we will see Him “as He is” in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 1:21-23). Either way, when we see Him, our work of purifying ourselves will be finished. Until then, though, every honest-to-goodness Christian will have a basic desire to keep working at the job. He or she might not always act in accordance with that desire, but, nonetheless, the desire will always be there to some degree.

Posted in Aging, Assurance of Salvation, Christ's Return, Commitment, Death, Discipleship, Elderly, God's Holiness, Heaven, Personal Holiness, Prophecy, Repentance, Righteousness, Salvation, Sanctification, Separation, Series: "1 John", Sin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Having the Indwelling Holy Spirit

1 John series: (post #9)

How many professing Christians are there in the world today? Figures place the number at approximately 2.3 billion. That’s 31% of the world’s population, and that makes Christians the most numerically dominant religious group in the world. Muslims currently stand in second place at approximately 1.8 billion, which amounts to a little over 24% of the world’s population.

Now, let’s think about what these numbers are telling us. Supposedly, Christianity is the most prolific religion in the world, with 31% of the world’s population classifying themselves as Christians. Admittedly, that 31% includes everybody from Catholics to Baptists, from Presbyterians to Pentecostals, from Lutherans to Orthodox, from Methodists to non-denominational, but the point is that Christianity is the world’s most popular religion by a pretty fair stretch.

Okay, now let me offer a quote from Jesus. It comes from Matthew 7:13-14, which is a part of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (N.K.J.V.)

As we read those words and compare them with those statistics that I quoted earlier, we see a grand-canyon-sized discrepancy. If the way that leads to destruction is broad, and if the gate of salvation is narrow, and if there are few who find that gate, and yet the most prolific religious group in the world is made up on professing Christians, either Jesus was wrong in what He said or a whole bunch of people worldwide who think they are Christians aren’t. I, for one, will side with Jesus on that discrepancy.

We are in a blog series on the book of 1 John, a series in which we are identifying ten distinctive marks of salvation that John describes in this book. These marks aren’t the only ones that could be named from the Bible, but they are certainly ten good ones. And what is the next mark (mark #7) on our list? It is the individual having God the Holy Spirit literally dwelling inside his or her body.

If you read the previous post in this series, you know that I’ve already said quite a bit about this mark in relation to the authentic Christian being an overcomer. Now, though, I need to give the mark its own time in the spotlight. John mentions the mark in the following three passages from 1 John. I’ll quote them all from the New King James Version and use boldfaced type to emphasize a certain word in each:

Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. (1 John 4:13)

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)

As you can see, these three passages all teach that God literally dwells inside the Christian’s body. And how does He do that? He does it by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

If these three passages were all we had to go on for doctrine, there is plenty right here to teach us that the true Christian has God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside him or her. But, of course, these passages are not the only place where the New Testament teaches this truth. As a matter of fact, this specific mark is so necessary to authentic Christianity that Romans 8:9 goes so far as to say that if a person does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, that person is not Christ’s.

Yes, you read that right. If an individual does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, that individual is not a genuine Christian. You might ask, “But why is the New Testament so dogmatic on this issue?” It’s because it takes God the Holy Spirit taking up residence inside a person’s body to create what Jesus described as the born-again experience. And do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus about being born again? He told him, “…I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, N.K.J.V.).

Allow me to explain how this works. Ephesians 2:1 teaches that people, prior to salvation, are “dead in trespasses and sins.” That means they are physically alive but spiritually dead. Therefore, the salvation experience is the person passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. John himself uses this same descriptive language in 1 John 3:14 and 5:11-12 when he talks about Christians having life by way of having passed from death to life. Again, the point is that salvation is a REBIRTH. That’s why Jesus called it being born again and why John refers to it in 1 John 3:9 and 5:18 as being “born of God.”

However, just as a baby cannot create its own birth, a person cannot create his or her own spiritual rebirth. That’s the role that God the Holy Spirit plays. The instant a lost person places saving belief in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence inside that person, and it is the Holy Spirit who creates the new birth inside that person and causes the person to pass from spiritual death to spiritual life. Then, following that moment of the new birth, the Holy Spirit continues to indwell the person and proceeds to do all kinds of other wonderful things. A partial list of those things could include:

  • He convicts the person when the person sins. (John 16:8)
  • He brings the nature of God into the person. (2 Peter 1:1-4; Ephesians 4:17-24)
  • He teaches the person. (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13)
  • He guides the person. (John 16:13)
  • He gifts the person with at least one spiritual gift, a spiritual gift being an ability to perform an act of service in the Lord’s work. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-30)

Doctrinally speaking, this distinctive mark of having the indwelling Holy Spirit should be slotted first on any list of the evidences of salvation. I say that because it is the indwelling Holy Spirit who actually produces the other evidences in the person’s life. But for this series I have more or less followed John’s order in 1 John, and he doesn’t directly mention the indwelling Spirit until 1 John 3:24. He does refer to the Spirit’s “anointing” in 1 John 2:20, but that is merely an indirect reference to the Spirit, a reference that I’ll have more to say about in a later post.

So, for now, just know that if a person does not have God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside his or her body, that person is not an authentic Christian. No matter how long the person has been on the church roll, no matter how deep the baptismal waters were, no matter how honest or moral the person may be, if the indwelling Holy Spirit isn’t present, the person is still dead in trespasses and sins. I won’t even hazard a guess as to how many of the world’s more than 2 billion professing Christians fall into this category, but it is undoubtedly a large number. All I know is that Jesus, the universe’s leading authority on salvation, said, “The gate that leads to salvation is narrow, and there are very few who find it.”

Posted in Assurance of Salvation, Doctrine, Salvation, Series: "1 John", The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Being an Overcomer

1 John series: (post #8)

With this post we launch into the list of the final five evidences of salvation that are named in 1 John. The first five evidences were:

  • You desire fellowship with your fellow Christians.
  • You walk in the light (the light of Christ’s teachings).
  • You keep Christ’s commandments.
  • You love your fellow Christians.
  • You don’t love the world (the Satanic world system that dominates civilization).

Now, evidence #6 of salvation is what I’ll call “being an overcomer.” By this I mean that real-deal Christians will never lose their salvation by falling away from the truth about Jesus. Much to the contrary, they will continually persevere in the Christian faith. As the renowned preacher Adrian Rogers used to say, “The faith that fizzles before the finish had a flaw from the first.”

In 1 John 2:18-19, the apostle John writes:

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (N.K.J.V.)

Notice that John draws a clear line of distinction between THE antichrist (a man he says is coming) and antichrists (people he says have already come). So, who are these “antichrists” who have already come? They are people who exhibit what John calls in 1 John 4:3 “the spirit of antichrist.” As for what the spirit of antichrist is, he tells us in 1 John 4:3-4:

and every spirit that does not confess not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (N.K.J.V.)

What John describes here were the beginnings of a false teaching called Gnosticism that history proves would soon become a major doctrinal threat to the early churches. Gnosticism took its name from gnosis, the common Greek noun for “knowledge,” and was influenced by Greek philosophers such as Plato. Gnosticism was supposedly a higher form of knowledge that was even greater than apostolic teaching and God-inspired scripture.

Gnostic teachers taught that anything that consisted of physical matter was inherently evil while anything that consisted only of spirit was good. Based upon this erroneous belief, they denied the divinity of Jesus the man and asserted that He was just a human being until “the Christ,” whom they considered to be an angel or some other type of supernatural being or entity, descended upon Him at His baptism and departed at His death. To all that, John says, “No! Jesus Himself is the Christ, and He really did come in the flesh.” He then adds in that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ has divinely come in the flesh is not of God (implying that the person does not have God the Holy Spirit) but has instead the spirit of the coming Antichrist.

Concerning these antichrists who were energized by the same spirit by which the coming Antichrist will be energized, notice again that John says in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us…” Evidently, these Gnostic teachers had once professed to be Christians. They had once claimed to believe in Jesus and had probably even been baptized and had attended the churches of the day. But their supposed Christianity hadn’t lasted. Somewhere along the way they had fallen away from the truth about Jesus, had embraced the doctrine of Gnosticism, and had abandoned their illegitimate Christianity.

A second passage where John touches upon this idea that the true Christian will overcome is 1 John 5:4-5. This is where John literally uses the word “overcome.” Those verses say:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (N.K.J.V.)

You see, the true Christian is a person who has been born of God (“born again” as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:1-21). Since the Holy Spirit is the One who creates the new birth inside the Christian, this means that the Christian has God the Holy Spirit literally dwelling inside his or her body. As for how the indwelling Holy Spirit empowers the Christian to be an overcomer who never falls away from Jesus, John gives his answer in that 1 John 4:4 verse. There, he explains that the Spirit is greater than he who is in the world. Consequently, nothing about the world system — not even Satan himself or any other fallen angel — can make the true Christian quit the Christian faith.

Please notice also that John doesn’t say: “And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our performance.” If he had said that, it would mean that Christians would have to do good works in order to remain saved and become overcomers. But John says that what produces the victory that overcomes the world is “our faith.” That is a reference to each Christian’s initial saving faith (belief) in Jesus. It’s that initial faith (belief) that causes the Holy Spirit to take up residence inside the Christian and produce the inner born-again experience. The Spirit’s continuing presence then enables the Christian to persevere in the Christian faith by overcoming the wicked world system.

Of course, a Christian having the indwelling Holy Spirit and thus being an overcomer does not mean that Christian will never sin. As a matter of fact, John actually gives instructions for what the Christian should do after committing a sin. In 1 John 1:8-10, he writes:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (N.K.J.V.)

Likewise, in 1 John 2:1-2, he writes:

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (N.K.J.V.)

Notice that losing salvation (failing to be an overcomer) is still not on the table even when the Christian sins. At some point following the sin, the indwelling Holy Spirit will compel the Christian to confess the sin, and Jesus will then provide the forgiveness and the cleansing. This forgiveness and cleansing will have nothing to do with the Christian either remaining saved or getting saved again. It will be, rather, all about the Christian getting back into right fellowship (not relationship) with the Lord.

Regarding sin in the life of the Christian, the absolute worst case scenario is a sin that John calls in 1 John 5:16 “a sin leading to death” (N.K.J.V.) or “a sin unto death” (K.J.V.), This isn’t a specific type of sin but can be any sin that causes God to end the Christian’s earthly life prematurely. The Christian couple Ananias and Sapphira committed a sin leading to death (Acts 5:1-11) as did some of the Christians in the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, their sin unto death was lying about how much they were donating to the church from a recent business transaction. In the case of those Christians in Corinth, their sin unto death was partaking of The Lord’s Supper (Communion) in an unworthy manner.

It should be understood, though, that even in the case of a Christian committing a sin that leads to death, that Christian’s soul still goes immediately to heaven at the moment of physical death. That is a benefit of being an overcomer. Again, it is that Christian’s initial saving faith (belief), not that Christian’s continued performance of good works, that makes that Christian an overcomer because that initial saving faith (belief) is what causes God the Holy Spirit to take up residence inside that Christian.

So, to sum up, one of the most decisive evidences for any Christian’s salvation, even a Christian who commits a sin that leads to a premature death, is that Christian’s ability to overcome the world and never lose salvation. If, at any point in life, a professed Christian falls away from the Christian faith, that should not be interpreted as a legitimate Christian losing his or her salvation. It should, instead, be interpreted as that person never having experienced genuine salvation, and that lack of salvation eventually manifesting itself.

I once heard a true Christian, a pastor, give his testimony. After serving faithfully as a pastor for a few years, he began to have doubts about Jesus, the Bible, and just about everything else. As a result, he quit the ministry, got a secular job, and backslid far away from Jesus. Looking back upon that time in his life, he said, “If I could have lost my salvation, I would have.”

But do you know what happened to that man? He eventually reached a point where he confessed his sins, repented of them, and got back into full-time service for Christ. He is currently serving as the pastor of a large church and enjoys helping fellow pastors who are struggling with certain aspects of their lives and ministries. How was it possible for that man to make such an amazing turnaround? It was possible because he got the real-deal salvation when he first placed his faith (belief) in Jesus as Savior, and there is an overcoming dynamic to such a salvation. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who provides this dynamic, and just as He overcomes the world, so will the person whom He indwells.

Posted in Adversity, Assurance of Salvation, Backsliding, Belief, Confession, Encouragement, Eternal Security, Faith, Grace, Ministry, Pastors, Perseverance, Repentance, Restoration, Salvation, Series: "1 John", Sin, The Sin Unto Death | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment