A lot of times people who think Christianity is just another tale created by…. for…. (You can fill in what you have heard as well or what you may usually say) also state that they are “open-minded”. In reference to religion or spirituality they either believe _____ or don’t believe in anything at all because they go by “facts”, you know things they can “see” and “verify”. Faith? No room for it. “I got it see it and touch it” is a common phrase. One can punch holes in the logic of the so-called reason but then it doesn’t accomplish too much (to the best of my knowledge).
Recently I have changed my approach. Now I simply state something and let the Holy Spirit work on them when He feels there is good opportunity.
Here’s the gist:
“Ok – you are open-minded, that is good. Since you are open-minded and we are talking about something that does have eternal consequences you should try this.
After all, you are open-minded and no harm will come of it.
Starting today read one chapter in the Gospel of John per day. Before you read it simply say “God if You are there and this info is true please show me and if I need to be saved please show me.”
That’s it. Something that will take about five minutes a day for 21 days.
Now add them to your prayer list.
The purpose of this post is to get on a couple pages what I believe to be a reason why many people do not accept the Bible and specifically why they do not believe the doctrine of salvation as understood as perseverance of the saints who of their own freewill believe and accept that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, God manifest in the flesh, the one who gave His life as a ransom for sin at Golgotha and was buried and three days later resurrected and some days later ascended into Heaven and will soon come back to rule and reign on this earth (ref).
I am not going to use a lot of Bible verses, just a few, because if someone does not believe the Bible is the Word of God then providing a bazillion verse references will only exacerbate matters.
Here I go…
I believe Lucifer was a created being, an anointed cherub who covered the throne of God. He was the most beautiful of the spiritual beings God created. Over a matter of time he developed pride and misplaced and used it as a means to have aspirations to at least put himself on the same level of God. It was this attempt that he apparently tried to carry out that resulted in him being punished and expelled out of Heaven (technically the third heaven) which is where God’s throne is (Isaiah 14:12-26; Ezekiel 28:12-19). Through this expulsion he changed and gained the name of Satan. Through this he changed but he can still appear to human beings as an angel of light or pretty much however he wants to appear.
Satan saw God recreate the earth and create Adam and Eve and he saw immediately a means to attack God and that was to ruin these two beings. Through deception he got Eve to disobey God and the Adam willfully disobeyed God choosing to follow Eve. God appears in the garden of Eden and Satan is there with Adam and Eve. Pay close attention. God pronounces judgments and prophecies what will eventually happen (Genesis 3 and specifically verse 15). “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Satan is wiser than any human being. Satan heard the judgment and knew immediately what it was implying: a virgin would conceive and give birth to the Savior of all the creation. He understood this because a woman does not have seed and yet look at the verse again. Something was going to occur that involved something outside of human flesh to create a very special human being. Now much could be said as to what would transpire but I will limit it to two thoughts. The first is Satan knew he needed to wipe out a specific line/heritage so as to frustrate the birth, maturation and victory of this special human being. The second, one of many fail-safe plans, he needed to pervert the words of God so as to get any future offspring to not correctly understand and believe it.
In the first case we see Cain killing Abel then fallen angels coming down and polluting all of creation resulting also in what is known as giants (that is something for a different post, Genesis 6) such that only one man and his immediate family are genetically clean, righteous – Noah. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God wipes out all of His creation with a flood. Time passes and God selects Abram (later his name is changed to Abraham) and God tells him that he will bless him and give him a great land. Fast forward Jacob whose name is changed to Israel, Joseph, Moses, Pharaoh, what follows is a history of war, blessings, disobedience and judgment over and over again. Also over this period nations try to wipe out the people of Israel. Fast forward to around 3 BC a virgin conceives and later gives birth – what happens? As soon as Herod finds out he has every child 2 years and younger murdered. Why? Twofold, Herod was trying to preserve his throne and Satan was trying to kill that special human being that God said would save His creation about 4000 years ago.
In the second matter, in those 4000 years Satan rose up Nimrod (Genesis 10 & 11) who was worshipped and later Semiramis and Tammuz and the whole shebang when you study it is a woman who gives birth from the gods and she has a son who becomes her husband and he dies and is resurrected and do you see what is happening? From these starts the mystery religion is formed and it goes from the area of Persia down to Egypt back out to Persia and Palestine and then up and over to Asia Minor and Europe. Through the years its teachings change and adapt and grow to entangle cultures and people (see the definitive work about this: Hislop’s Two Babylons). From history as many people already know you can trace religions which taught a virgin born baby, a baby that was god, a god that was one yet many, blood sacrifice, resurrection of god-being, etc.
Satan is not foolish or ignorant. He knew exactly what to do to gain the best chance of blinding people to the Truth and have them dwell in Hell with him for all eternity. The human race is a means to an end to him. The end is his efforts to hurt and frustrate God. He knows what the end will be. He believes God’s word though he convinces humans it is all fables and lies. He knows. Remember he was in existence before the earth and creation was brought into being. He knows God and he knows God will keep His word.
At this moment Satan is the god of this world. Soon the Lord Jesus Christ will come and defeat him and wrap him in chains to bind and throw him in the bottomless pit. Jesus will then rule and reign on this earth (Revelation 19 & 20).
So what are you going to do with this information and Jesus?
[please forgive type-o-s and poor grammar]
To the best of my knowledge all religions but Christianity (which is different from Roman Catholicism) teach that one must work or earn their way to heaven, nirvana, or whatever the term is for the blessed hereafter. The god or prophet gives rules and admonitions that one must follow and obey so as to have a hope, a possibility of gaining eternal bliss.
With Christianity, the God of the world said here is what you would have to do – be perfect everyday of your life and this will require sacrifices and rituals to cling to in order to hope for eternal bliss. In essence at this point of the story it is the same as all other religions.
Then He did the unthinkable and said, I know you can’t do it so I will send my Son to you and He will do it and He will fulfill the required righteousness on your behalf and if you accept His work, His payment for your life – if that is all you will trust in to enter Heaven, you then can freely enter.
Immanuel – God with us. Doing for us what we could not do in order to have an eternity we desperately desire.
Acts 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved,
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Galatians 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Galatians 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Ephesians 2:8&9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
In the Bible God tells us…
- That there is none righteous, no not one.
- All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
- Our works of righteousness are nothing but filthy rags.
- Because of sin we are enemies of God and the wages of sin is death.
- The good news is that God proved his love for us, in that while we were sinners, Jesus Christ died for us. Because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believed on Him shall have everlasting life. Jesus Christ came to save sinners and God is not willing that any should perish but it is a person’s freewill to believe Him or not. Jesus declared that He alone is the way the Truth and the Life and that no one can come to God the Father but by Him.
- The reality is that God made Hell for Satan and his angels. So we are not to neglect a great salvation because if we do there is no escape – no other remedy.
- God has given only one way to Heaven. It is His home and it is His say. A person’s baptism, good works, mass/communion/Eucharist, church membership or any other thing outside of their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ – will NOT save them.
- That is thou shalt confess with thy mouth and believe in thine heart that God had raised Jesus from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
- Confess your sinner and that you believe Jesus paid your sin debt in full at Calvary -and THAT alone is what you are trusting for salvation. This salvation is eternal and secured by the work of God not our own works.
- For by grace are ye saved thru faith and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.
Luke 24:1-53 KJV –  Now upon the first [day] of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain [others] with them.  And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.  And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  And as they were afraid, and bowed down [their] faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,  Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.  And they remembered his words,  And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.  It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary [the mother] of James, and other [women that were] with them, which told these things unto the apostles.  And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.  Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.  And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem [about] threescore furlongs.  And they talked together of all these things which had happened.  And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.  But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.  And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?  And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?  And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:  And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.  But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.  Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;  And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.  And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found [it] even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.  Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:  Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.  And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.  But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.  And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.  And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?  And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,  Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.  And they told what things [were done] in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.  And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you.  But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.  And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?  Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.  And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them [his] hands and [his] feet.  And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?  And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.  And he took [it], and did eat before them.  And he said unto them, These [are] the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and [in] the prophets, and [in] the psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And ye are witnesses of these things.  And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.  And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.  And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.  And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:  And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the account of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. I have a copy of the famous painting by Robert Zund in the “inner sanctum”. My mom bought it for me when she learned how special the account is to me. You can read the text (in purple) and see what happened so I don’t want to repeat the whole story but I do want to share some of the things that touch me about this account.
- Cleopas & his friend are travelling after the news that Mary told the disciples and then have heard Peter & John verify that Jesus was not in the tomb. These two men head to Emmaus. It is apparent from the Bible that they were perplexed & saddened. I think they were in shock; I mean consider the events that they have experienced first hand over the past four days. Wouldn’t you be in a daze? Part of me thinks they started walking and they were not even considering where they were headed, they just knew they had to clear their heads. It is also apparent that they were discussing and trying to figure out exactly what was going on that Jesus appeared on their path and started walking along with them.
- That when Jesus asked them what they were talking about & why were they sad. Cleopas is flabbergasted at the inquiry. How could this traveler not know?! It was not something done secretly but openly and loudly. Cleopas gives a great summary of the events and then Jesus (I always picture a smile) replies to them with the same flabbergastedness “How could YOU not know it was supposed to and needed to happen?!” Then Jesus beginning with Moses – meaning the Law and working his way through the Old Testament showed and proved to them why what happened did happen. I am sure these men were absolutely stunned because over and over in the Gospels there is reference to the people being blown away by how when Jesus expounded on the Scriptures how He spoke with such authority, confidence and wisdom. These two guys were being given a survey of the Old Testament by the Savior, Messiah, & Word. Think about it!
- We are told that they were not allowed to discern or recognize it was Jesus who was the traveler. I figure it happened for one or both reasons. One, that is because they would have been so busy worshipping they would not have provided the opportunity for Him to show them what the OT taught about Him. Two, these men were already shocked and perplexed and God didn’t want to add to the confusion. What He wanted to do was help them so He made sure that He would first have the time to answer all their questions then He would reveals Himself.
- That they recognized Him immediately when He prayed, when He spoke to the Father. They knew how He spoke to the Father and the words and the tone rang true. They had heard Jesus many times bless the breaking of bread for meal and here He does it again and I am certain He did it the same way He usually did. Then you get the verification once Jesus disappears! that again when He had been expounding they were struck by the way He taught.
One of the most powerful interpretations of the events on the road to Emmaus is the following song. Please do yourself a favor and spend the four minutes to listen to it.
Best version/performance of this song is by the Florida Boys with tenor Greg Cook singing the lead.
The song captures among other Scriptures, Romans 5:8
“But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
When He Was On the Cross, I Was On His Mind
I’m not on an ego trip, I’m nothing on my own
I make mistakes and sometimes slip
Just common flesh and bone
But I’ll prove someday just why I say
I’m of a special kind
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind
A look of love was on His face
The thorns were in His head
The blood was on that scarlet robe
And stained it crimson red
Though His eyes were on the crowd that day
He looked ahead in time
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind
He knew me, yet He loved me
He whose glory makes the Heaven’s shine
So unworthy, of such mercy
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind
For when He was on the cross
I was on His mind
I believe the second verse I memorized was for the Sunday school program when I was eight years old and in department 8. I am pretty sure my Sunday school teacher was a gentleman named Sonny Neal. 39 years have passed and he is still working for the Lord. He is a kind soul which each time I see him on Sunday morning brings a smile to my face and cheer to my heart. Like the first verse I memorized, this one I would not fully understand till much later in life. And the time that passed I took a very long and often frustrating path. For the sake of brevity I will summarize my experience to one point.
If you went into a Starbucks and order a tall coffee, paid for it and then took the hot beverage to your car and pulled away heading toward your next destination. If then – you raised the hot beverage to your mouth to sip your coffee and then realized it was simply hot water, what would you do? If you had enough time/the availability to turn around and go back to Starbucks to express your unsatisfaction and receive the beverage you paid for and ordered – you would. Let’s say that is what happens and after going back through the line you present what you received and explain what you ordered. The person remembers you and replies “oh you should have ordered a “red”; here I will make that for you.” And then turns away to make your order. You – standing perplexed – look around and see clearly on the menu board what you would expect. Coffee, tall, grande, venti and so on. You look at the signage and it all says what it usually does. The barista comes back with your coffee and you say, “Sorry but I am confused. When did ordering change? Why doesn’t the menu reflect the change?” The barista then goes on about the tradition and culture of the company etc.
Here is the point: There are those who are supposedly Christian leaders that lead people astray by their dishonest use of the vocabulary in the Bible. It even gets worse, because some so-called scholars and leaders have established boards with publishers to actually change the words from the Bible and even – preposterous as it may sound – remove words and whole verses (This phase of the problem will be for a future post). My writing today is about the dishonesty of vocabulary use and application. If you were to find out that your pastor/priest/clergy/elder/etc. meant one thing when they said another thing, how would you feel/react? Say for example when they used the word “love” they actually meant “hate”. If you asked questions in private or in class as to clarification they would talk about emotions and how they are God given and God uses this language to communicate to us in the Bible so we can understand. Where does that answer get you? Nowhere so you say “explain”. Then they take you through a Greek language primer explaining the Greek word and tenses and the use in that day and the expression is communicated differently today and in the end we have to translate to English and that brings us back to God communicating with us in our language so we can understand. —- This scenario is not preposterous, it happens every single day.
Ephesians 2:8&9 KJV: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Today supposed Christian leaders teach and preach that salvation must be earned. You see, grace is a work or sacrament one must repeatedly take part of and experience as a crucial element in the salvation plan. Please note grace cannot be a work – it is inconsistent with the actual vocabulary and definition of the word “grace”. In fact Paul plainly writes NOT OF WORKS in his explanation. Unique mention? No.
“And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” – Romans 11:6 KJV
“Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” – 2 Timothy 1:9 KJV
So not only is it ridiculous that someone would teach that grace is a work but also tragic. See unlike the customer from Starbucks who was able to go back and resolve the matter satisfactorily though at a cost of their time and patience the person who dies and stands before God trusting their works to enter into Heaven for eternity will be ushered to the lake of fire. All of the screaming and hollering that “it isn’t fair” and “I’m sorry…” will fall on deaf ears. He will simply point to the Scriptures and say something like “you thought you could earn your way into My Heaven when I sent My Son to pay for your sins?” “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:23 Matthew 25:41 KJV – “… Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”
Grace is via God’s goodness toward human demerit. He provides mercy out of His goodness toward human guilt. The grace and mercy of God to all human beings was declared, revealed and realized via the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:8&9: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
John 3:15-18 KJV – “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” – John 14:6 KJV
So what and whom are you trusting? Your answer has eternal implications.