Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Once Saved Always Saved?

John 10:27-29

Story a black preacher told when asked if he could lose his salvation.  In a nutshell he said, "when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I was dipped in His blood, then placed in his hand.  He wrapped his hand around me, and then God wrapped HIS hand around the hand of Jesus."  Now, if the devil COULD pry open the hand of God, AND the hand of Jesus, he'd have to swim through the blood to get to me, so then he'd be a 'saved' devil, and everything would be all right in the end anyway."

This is comforting, yes, BUT, can I wander out?  stray out?  fall out?  jump out?

Last few weeks we discussed "Persevering in the Faith".  (getting in, functioning within, etc)
But, the question remains...... "Once in can I get out?'

The question is not doctrinally out, practically out.   The question is 'Can I lose my salvation?'
(my claim to eternal life?  my relationship with God?  my place in heaven?)

There are 2 answers - Yes and No        Can and Can't

However, within the answers there are 4 Primary Views
Two that say "can't" - Calvinist  (Calvinism)
Two that say "can" - Arminian (Arminianism)

1.)  Classical Calvinism - primarily follows the teaching of John Calvin - focused totally on God's sovereignty - believes that even salvation is God's decision.  Therefore, can't lose your salvation because your salvation has been pre-determined by God.  This is the predominant theology of our founding fathers.

2.)  Moderate Calvinism - states can't lose salvation because KEPT by God.   This view - sovereign God has determined that man has free choice - but once that choice is made, his salvation is kept by God.

3.)  Reformed (moderate) Arminianism - believes can lose salvation BUT only
        A)  Apostates - knowingly choose to abandon the faith, deliberately, intentionally
        B)  and, if lost, there is NO re-entry - can never be saved again.

4.)  Wesleyan (from John and Charles Wesley) Arminianism - can lose salvation two ways:
        A)  By Apostasy OR continual known sin, sinful behavior
 But  B)  can also be re-saved  ( can fall out of grace doesn't mean can fall beyond grace)

ADD:  "Plus One" - means "maybe possible to lose salvation........  BUT, Inconceivable!"

So.... Why are there 4 views?  ---  Because:
1.  can make a scriptural argument for each
2.  all views have:    scholarly proponents
                               Godly adherents
                               long traditions

Pastor's Stance:  #2 - with 1)   recognition of the weight behind each view
                                         2)  a sympathetic eye toward "Plus One"
#1.  Many Scriptures
John 5:24   John 6:39-40   Rom. 8:35-39
(with recognition of problem scriptures)

#2.  Old Testament Pictures  - (analogies, examples, word pictures)
Examples:  Adam and Eve - exiled, not abandoned!
                  Israel in wilderness - Israel in Exile - God still cared for them, chastised, yes, but never abandoned

#3.  New Testament Pictures
         New Birth - John 3:3-7
         Sonship - John 1:12-13 - example - Prodigal Son
         Ernest - Eph. 1:13-14 ------>  2 Cor. 5:5   Holy Spirit (sealed, branded)

#4.  The Nature of Salvation - ie:  a GIFT of God - freely given
by grace - called, saved, gifted, enabled, KEPT!!!  - Jude 24 & 25.  We are not good enough to get salvation.  We are not good enough to KEEP salvation.

#5.  New Testament Promise
       Matt:  28:20 - "lo, I am with you ...... always...."
       Heb. 13:5 - "never will I leave you....forsake you..."
       Phil. 1:6 - ".....will carry on to completion..."

-- the answer to this question is important - to your relationship, security, growth, confidence in Him.

BUT, it is NOT critical - can live a productive Christian life in the wrong quadrant.

THE Critical Question is NOT - Can you lose it???  BUT, Do you have it??   If you have it, keep what you have.

There is great danger of putting your faith (confidence) in a doctrine instead of in the LORD (Christ), depending on "once saved always saved", - a byword, catch phrase, slogan, platitude (as many seem to!!)

IF your faith is NOT in Christ - you have no security (may have assurance but that's not security!)

But, of you place your faith, trust securely in Christ, then whatever the answer to the question of security, YOU will be safe and secure!!!

Psalm 121:1-8

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why Believers Doubt Their Salvation

John 1:19-34 - John the Baptist. What a ministry!  What an office/calling,experience!!!
Many people repented because of the teachings of John the Baptist.

BUT....... later..... Matt. 11:2-3 - John sends to Jesus, "are you the one?"

Point:  Doubts will come, rise, occasionally overshadow even the greatest saints.

Others:  Moses (during the Exodus), Jeremiah (siege)  Disciples (cross) - had all kinds of doubts for three days.
Adam and Eve - (perfect setting, no sin, God's presence) - but began to doubt God's word, goodness, etc.

So.....no surprise that you (Christian) might question your salvation.
(the above examples are NOT skeptics, agnostics but are believers, followers)

So, on one hand, we needn't be devastated by the fact that we question/doubt. 
However, needn't continue, needn't entertain these doubts without addressing them!!!  (dealing with them)

So, today.......Why Believers Doubt   (focus is doubting salvation.  Application can be much broader)  What causes this, what can be done about it.

What Causes Believers to Doubt?

We could (and will) list many reasons, but 2 reasons seem to encompass all the others:
IE:  1)  doctrinal deficiency
      2)  strong feelings
If address these two, pretty well address everything else.

I.  Doctrinal Deficiency = not knowing what God has said, done, promised, etc. - confidence comes when know who He is, what He does, His promises, His power, etc.
Rom.  10:17
Sound theology will settle the mind, put at ease.  Many doubts will dissipate.

Doubts diminish when scripture is known, understood, and embraced.  (doesn't mean they will disappear)
Cannot overemphasize the importance of knowing and understanding what's in God's Word.  Can't have a sure, solid based confidence without it.
May be able to drum up false faith, but that won't work.

II.  Strong Feelings
Un-met expectations
Experiential disappointment
Example:  John the Baptist - un-met expectations which led to doubts
Example:  Gideon - Judges 6:12-13 - experiential disappointment led to doubts

A.)  Feelings can be powerful and persistent.
BUT, they are NOT the measure of God's faithfulness. 
We are prone to follow our feelings in spite of what we know about God.

B.)    The feelings and experiences we long for are (apparently) beyond what God is willing to grant.  (on a general basis)   Only on rare occasions do we have those feelings and experiences we desire.
Deus Revelatus - the Deity who revels Himself.
But, is still
Deus Absconditus - the Deity who hides Himself

C.)  Experiences do not (necessarily) instill confidence. 
Example:  1st. generation in Exodus and Conquest - even after seeing all the miracles, they complained and turned back at the edge of the Promised Land.

Most other reasons are answered by these two.

Things I often hear.....

"I'm unable to identify the time and place" - Compare to natural birth - can you remember that?  Any question if you are really here?  The question is where do you stand with Christ today?
  Note to parents of young children accepting the Lord:  write it down for them!

"I wasn't counseled well".  Compare:  no pre-marital counseling, therefore can't have a confident relationship.
So....... get counsel, gain knowledge, move on!!!!

"My conversion  doesn't match others' stories"

"I keep repeating the same sins" - like Rom. 7:18-24??  - how unusual!

"I should be better by now" - no doubt you should, but, (example) - last year's tomato plants didn't produce much.  Makes me wonder if they really ARE tomatoes!!!

"I feel like I don't deserve to be saved." - Answer = you don't!  It's "by grace we're saved...."

"Other Christians don't seem to struggle like I do"
ASK & LISTEN - we're all in the same boat!!!  People need to know that others are struggling, too.

"I don't feel lovable, valuable, salvageable" - Called "inferiority complex"  (inherent and learned:  welcome to the club)
Anyone who is introspective has an inferiority complex.

"I just don't feel saved" - what's feeling go to do with it???

I seldom hear:  1) I've never asked Jesus into my life.
                        2)  I'm not sure God is faithful.
                        3)  I don't know if I can trust the Bible

Simple, yet powerful summary wrap up:

1.  Salvation is a (free, gracious) gift of God.   It cannot be earned, is not deserved - Eph. 2:8-9

2.  God wants you to have it (salvation and security in that salvation)
1 Tim. 2:3-4  2 Pet. 3:9
After repentance need to repent of failing to believe the promises of God.

3.)  If you ask (according to His terms) He'll respond.  HE IS FAITHFUL!!!!

Additional:  One more reason people doubt their salvation...........
Because ...... NOT SAVED!!!  haven't accepted, received, etc.
Doubts MAY be the work of the Holy Spirit!!

So.....take the 4-H test...
1)  Head test - have you decided?  committed?
2)  Heart test - do you have affections (for the things of God)?
3)  Hands test - your actions/lifestyle of obedience?
4) Health test - have you grown? - even a little bit

2 Cor. 13:5
Examine yourself - take the 4-H test.
If not 'in the faith' - address the issue, situation - get counseling, make the decision
If are 'in the faith' - stand there!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Being Certain of Your Salvation

Recent weeks - "Persevering in the Faith"

ie:  once are within the faith, are called to persevere, continue, endure - - stay in the faith.

Two Questions that arise: 
1)  How do I GET in the faith initially????
2)  Can I fall out of the faith permanently???

Today - looking at #1.  How do I get in the faith initially?
OR, How do I know I've entered the faith?

Terms:  born again, saved, converted, regenerated, become a Christian, believer, follower, disciple, etc.

STATS:  most American adults believe in afterlife - 81%
                "        "             "    believe in heaven - 76%   (about 5% believe in incarnation)
BUT about 1/2 (46%) never wonder if they'll get there.
AND most of doubters (wonderers - the rest) are those who make some claim to be with in the faith!!!   Have some grounding in the faith.

Example:  at a Pastor's Conference when asked about this by show of hands, many leaders had questions, issues of whether were actually in the faith.

On one hand, we don't have a "Christometer" to test others.   This is not to apply to others, but to self.
BUT, to test self???  CAN I BE SURE???  1 John 5:11-13 - written to Christians. 

So, Being Sure of Your Salvation

I.  The Head Test:  examine your decision - have to know something about Christ to accept Christ.
Rom. 10:9-10, 13 - have you decided?  have you committed?

3 Questions:
1)  is the Bible trustworthy?  Do we have Christ's words?
2)  Have you done this? - made a decision?
3)  Is God faithful?

On one hand, salvation is more than a verbal claim - Matt. 7:21   James 2:19
But, it's as simple as deciding, crossing over, receiving

Question?  If it's so simple, who do I struggle???  (next week's message)

Don't minimize THIS test!!

II.  The Heart Test:  examine your affections (not just feelings)
Some examples:  1 John 2:9, 3:14
Point being:  Love God = love things of God - His Word, teachings, people, church, work, Kingdom, etc.

III.  The Hands Test - examine your actions (life style)
1 John 2:3, 3:6, 3:17-19 (a)
point:  internal change should lead external evidence - "fruit"

IV.  The Health Test :  examine your growth (progress)
1 Pet. 2:2  2 Pet. 3:18
Point:  new birth leads to new life leads to growth, development, becoming.......   Living things GROW!!!

Some Observations:
#1.  There should be some evidence in all 4 categories.

Example:  could be a "good man" - hands/fruit - BUT decision?  affection?  growth?

#2.  You'll never score perfect in any one category.
Rom. 3:23 - but there should be evidence in all 4

#3.  Your heart will condemn you - because you sin from time to time.
1 John 3:19-20 - need to have conviction of sin.

BUT, remember....
#4.  The struggle is often evidence of salvation.
Example:  Paul - Rom. 7:15 (f)

#5.  Change, growth, transformation is a Process
ie:  happens slowly, incrementally.  Therefore, hard to measure/see - (especially by yourself)
(Christian tendency is to measure where we are by where we should be, instead of where we've come from.)

CHALLENGE:  consider these tests.
Examine your standing
Accept Christ if needed
Ask for help if uncertain
Stand firm if you pass the test.   Satan doesn't want you to stand firm.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Persevering in the Faith - How????

Paul's letter to Timothy - "Timothy...... endure/be strong/stand firm..."


I.  Stick with Sound Doctrine - called to persevere within the faith.
2 Tim. 1:13, 3:14
Being IN the faith requires:  A.)  Knowledge of the truth (basic Bible doctrine) and proper application - 2 Tim. 2:15
               B.)  Attention to the truth - Heb. 2:1 - knowledge does not necessarily translate to being in the faith. It is so easy for our focus to get off on something else.  MUST pay attention.
1 Tim.4:16

II. Stop, Think, Consider, Meditate
2 Tim. 2:7  Phil. 4:8
You won't persevere in the faith by following your feelings!!!!
2 Tim. 4:3-5 - "Keep your head" - cannot expect blessings by sinning.  Don't follow every whim of heart.

III.  Flee Sin, Pursue Righteousness - 2 Tim. 2:22
This means - active, intentional, continual AVOIDANCE of sin
AND -          active, intentional, continual PURSUIT of righteousness
"Put off & Put on" - (180 degree/repent) - AND RUN!!!  Heb. 12:1 - not only about rules, but what's going to help in the race.

IV.  Choose Companions Wisely
V.  Focus on What's Important
2 Tim. 3:1-5 - Avoid foolish people
2 Tim. 2:16 - avoid foolish issues - petty stupid, insignificant
2 Tim. 2:23 - avoid foolish arguments - that produce quarrels and divisions

VI.  Disciple others - 2 Tim. 2:2, 4:2
Three helpful steps to faithfulness-----1.) Know the Faith
                                                      2.)  Practice the Faith
                                                      3.)  Share the Faith  - Philemon 6 - when sharing faith, helps keep us in the  faith.

VII.  Trust God - 2 Tim. 2:8, 1:14  Rom. 15:4-5
On one hand, Persevering in the Faith is what we're called to do.
On the other hand, we don't do it without the ever present assistance of GOD...

Doctrine of "sufficient grace" - 2 Cor. 12:9
He will not do your part, your work.  However, Hi will never leave you or forsake you as you pursue your part, your work.

WE must persevere, but we don't have to do it alone!