I have confidence, confidence in....

As I look back over all the sermons I heard while growing up. I cannot remember a single sermon emphasizing the fact that we can have confidence in our salvation. On the other hand I remember many sermons telling me all of the ways that I can lose my salvation! I read passages like I Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says; "But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." Paul here is telling us that he had to discipline his body to ensure he did not lose his salvation! 

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Baptism & 'The Great Commission'

Mat 28:19-20 "Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen." I have no problem calling these verses by their traditional epithet-The Great Commission. If I venture into any religious institution that lays claim to Christ and ask anyone randomly, "What's the 'Great Commission'?", I am likely to get an accurate response, even if it isn't quoted verbatim or the exact chapter-verse is unknown. Most can at least say something along the lines of, "That's where Jesus told his disciples to preach."

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How to Read the Bible

Where will you find the Word of God?  A Jew will tell you the Torah.  A Muslim will tell you the Koran.  Many Americans will tell you you can find it anywhere and most people in the eastern hemisphere will tell you won’t find it at all. Based on my convictions as a Christian I understand the Word of God to be discovered in many places (creation – Psalm 19:1-4, conscience – Romans 2:14-15), but most importantly the Word of God is revealed through the Bible.  The Bible is the manifest Word of God.  These words are God’s word.  The same master mind that created the world and set the universe in order wrote a book, and he wants you to read it.  God wants be found and demands that he be understood to the extent that our human minds are able.

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The Word Made Flesh

Flesh can refer to the skin with its substrate of tissue, tendon and muscle, or it can be a synonym for the body as a whole. The Bible also uses the term for the being of mankind as in; “. . the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . .”(John 1:4) Jesus did not become spirit. The Word was not made soul. Those expressions weren’t used because they are inadequate for a general description. Flesh defines us though we are body, soul, and spirit. It defines us because it is the most visible to us. The flesh requires a universe to inhabit; an earth with sky, dry land and seas, night and day, vegetation, insects, animals, fish, sun, moon and stars.

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A Simple Doctrine

The Bible is filled with challenging topics.  It is strange to me that one of its simplest – baptism in Jesus’ name for the remission of sins – is among its most misunderstood.  The Scripture’s teaching on baptism is uncomplicated and unambiguous.  We need not ascend into heaven to understand this doctrine.  It is accessible and straightforward. The Bible Teaches Water Immersion

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Saul's Conversion

In Acts 7:58 we are introduced to a “young man named Saul.” At this point in his life, Saul was diametrically opposed to “the Way.” He consented to, and played a role in, the stoning of Stephen. Chapter 8 verse 3 speaks of him saying, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." Chapter 9 continues this dialogue on Saul's persecution of the church, telling us in verse 1, “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord...” Recalling later, Saul told king Agrippa his purpose was to, “do many things against the Jesus of Nazareth.” The purpose of his life would change. Not through some uncontrollable force, but by Saul's willing obedience to “the Way” he once persecuted. Chapter 9 records for us this change in Saul's life. He went from the young man “dragging off men and women” who professed a belief in Jesus to the man who penned at least 13 inspired epistles. Notice a few points about Saul's conversion to Christianity.

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To Enter

Many things converge in order to receive Jesus Christ. The gospel awakens us to possibilities beyond imagining. Influences of family and friends have a bearing on our conscience. Perhaps there is confrontation by someone who loved us enough to risk rejection. Finally, our spirit has to wrestle with the flesh. We may come to a point where we are sorry for our sins and earnestly desire a new life. Yet, this is not enough. Sincere belief in the Gospel brings us to the door, but we need to cross the threshold.  Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) We have to choose between our own manner of self-justification and entering the door: “My parents had me sprinkled when I was a baby.” “I asked Jesus to come into my heart.” “I’ve tried to live a good life.” Yet, it is the Lord who waits. It is for us to enter.  For me, the biggest struggle had to do with the good intentions of my mother versus what was plainly written in the Bible. 

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For many are called, but few are chosen

Matthew 22:1-14 contains the parable of the wedding feast. Verses 1-7 describes a king whose son is to be married. He has planned a grand feast and invited an honored few. Despite the honor of being invited to the wedding feast some ignore the invitation and others mistreat and kill the messengers announcing the feast, in his fury the king sends his armies, executes the murderers and burns their city. This portion of the parable is a reference to God's chosen people, the Jews. God chose the Jews to be his people, he led Abraham out of the land of Ur, he led Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt, he led the people out of their captivity in Persia. He sent them prophets and judges, blessings and curses. They ignored and killed the prophets and judges, or forgot their wisdom in a generation. They forgot about the blessings and wailed at the perceived injustice of the curses. When the Son of God came he was rejected by his chosen people.  

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The Sinner's Prayer

A few brief thoughts… When I was in college in the mid-nineties, I recall individuals from a local denomination walking the campus in the evening, initiating conversations with students about their salvation.  Their approach was direct, and memorable.  When afforded the opportunity, they inquired of a prospective convert, "Are you saved?"  It was a good question, and not a bad conversation starter.  I've since borrowed it myself.  Of course, if the student they asked responded with a "no," they would then attempt to share the plan of salvation with him/her as they understood it.   And they understood it differently than I do.  For if memory (and youthful perception) serves me correctly, I recall walking by one of them one evening as he was bowing in prayer with another.  I can’t be certain what they were praying about, but based on what I know of this denomination, it's quite possible they were praying what is often referred to as "the sinner's prayer."

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Unmerited vs. Unconditional

A couple of months ago there was a good deal of discussion concerning what God requires of us, if anything, in order to obtain salvation. I was following the discussion, and one of the participants appeared to be confusing unmerited favor and unconditional salvation. I would like to spend a little time discussing these two concepts. The salvation that is from the Lord cannot be earned, therefore it is unmerited.

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Lessons from Matthew 14

"The boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.  Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’  And they cried out for fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer!  It is I;  do not be afraid.’  And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’  So He said, ‘Come.’  And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid;  and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’  And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.”  (Matthew 14:24-32)

This singular event in the lives of the disciples teaches us some important lessons about serving the Lord.   Lessons for Christians, and otherwise.

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