Is Anything Really Free?

A gift is supposed to be free. But it does cost something to the giver although to the recipient it is free. If there are stipulations to what is given, it is no longer a gift. For example, if someone gives you a new computer, but expects you to facetime with them or they’ll want it back; that’s not a gift. It’s an exchange. You get a new computer if you meet their expectation of how to use it.

Salvation is a Gift; not an Exchange

There are some who communicate the wonderful grace of God as an exchange. They say if you do not put your faith into action, either you never had it, or God will take it away from you. If that is the case, then it isn’t a gift. It’s an exchange. You get to keep everlasting life by being faithful. So now it becomes dependent on you.

But the Bible says it’s a gift. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). If He removed it from you because of something bad that you did, then it wouldn’t be a gift. It would be an exchange. You could only get eternal life by continued obedience to God or He would take it away.

The Greatest Gift

Two thousand years ago God brought His plan to fruition. It was THE GREATEST GIFT mankind could ever receive. Jesus Christ was born; the promised Messiah.   “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…” (Gal. 4:4). God said that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). 

Sin separated us from our Creator. We became helpless sinners. He lived a perfect life so He could be the perfect sacrifice in order to make the necessary payment for sin. His resurrection proved that He has the power over sin and death (John 2:22). And though it cost Him greatly, He offers us eternal life as a gift.

A Gift must be Accepted

The only requirement to receive the benefit of a gift is to accept it. In the case of salvation, you can reject it or you can accept it as His gift to you; no strings attached. The gift is simply received by believing the Lord Jesus died for you; in your place, and rose again. “But as many received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).  The gift of God is really free.

I invite you to follow me as I continue to explore God’s amazing grace and assurance of heaven for anyone who has believed the gospel.

Who Lights up Your Life?

Have you ever been in complete darkness?  Most of us have experienced the loss of electricity due to a thunderstorm, but even then there is usually ambient light from outside sources.  Total darkness is a fearful experience. And that is what God brought upon the Egyptians.

Can You Feel Darkness?

There was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days (Ex 10:22).  But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings (v.23). In fact the Bible states that the darkness was so dark that it could be felt (v.21). The word ‘felt’ could also mean ‘grope’.  It would be like having your eyes fully covered and trying to find your way even around your own home. They had no light.  They had no idea how long the darkness would last.  One can only imagine the fear and panic they would have ‘felt’.

They Worshipped the Sun

The Egyptians had many gods. Ra, the sun god, was one of them.  He ruled over all. He was their spiritual light.  For this reason it is very clear that God was sending them a message that He was greater than their sun god.  But greater still, the darkness was not only literal; it was a picture of their spiritual condition.  They were in spiritual darkness while the Israelites were in light; because God gave them light and He was their Light.

<<<<< Jesus is the Light >>>>>

Jesus the Messiah (Christ) came into the world and “ the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light” (Matt 4:15).  He is the light of the world and whoever “follows Him shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).  For those who have trusted in the Messiah as Savior, you are no longer living in the darkness of Egypt.  For God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love…” (Col. 1:13). You have been brought out of darkness through the death and resurrection of the Light (Jesus), and transferred into the kingdom of light“For you were once darkness but now are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light  (Eph 5:8).

In the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to forget why we celebrate Christmas. Slow down and remember that LIGHT has come into a dark world. For believers, the Light (Jesus) is the true purpose of Christmas. Christmas is not a day. It’s a one time event that should affect the way you live every day. Jesus said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). Allow Jesus to light up your life!

Interview – Step into the Light

On Friday I was interviewed by Patti Shene, host of the podcast, Step into the Light. She describes her podcast as an interview format where guests can share the ways in which God’s love and grace has touched their lives. She believes that we all experience dark times at some point, and these testimonies will help listeners strengthen their faith and reach out toward the light that radiates from a God who cares, who heals and who loves us unconditionally.

I discuss some of the key concepts with her in my book that explore the question of whether or not we can look forward to Heaven as our eternal home. We discussed how you can have assurance as well as some of the things that cause us to lack assurance. You can listen to my interview with Patti Shene at:http://ow.ly/a44a30pWqar

I invite you to follow me as I continue to explore God’s amazing grace and assurance of heaven for anyone who has believed the gospel.

Have You Thanked God Today?

When I worked full time, I passed a church sign that read something like this, ‘Have you thanked God today?’  The sign was really convicting and I drove by it often. I don’t know about you, but I complain way too much about things. You can’t be complaining and thankful at the same time.  

We’re not Thankful

We humans can be pretty unthankful.  Just think how often we complain about things on a daily basis.  The service is too slow at the local fast food restaurant.  The guy in front of me just cut me off.  I don’t get paid enough for what I do. The preacher preached too long. I am really sick of this weather – too cold – too hot – too much rain – too much snow – not enough sun etc. etc. When we get caught up in our complaining and our not so perfect life, it becomes pretty difficult to see God let alone thank Him.

He Provided Redemption for Us

Well there are some that might say, “Thank Him for what?” I would say because, “He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” Luke 6:35  The very people that would curse Him… those that would deny his existence, to them He is kind.  How amazing is that!  Yet even more amazing is that He continues to be kind to those that know Him and yet often times fail to offer up the thanks that He deserves. He “demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Where would we be without His Son and His plan of salvation in Him and Him alone?  That in and of itself should be enough for us to offer up our continual thankfulness and praise. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”(II Cor. 9:15)

He Gave Us Life

But we also have Him to thank for our very existence; the life that we have.  “Know that the Lord is God; It is He who made us and not we ourselves…Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100: 3-5

He Owns Everything

He created the universe and He owns it all.  He made it and has given us temporary stewardship over it. Once I heard a pastor exclaim, “How much of what you have will you have a hundred years from now?”  It is all His – house, property, cars, clothes, etc. 

We Need to Thank Him

Often I hear someone say that they are so thankful for something. Typically they never finish the sentence. I wonder, “Thankful to who?” Well I am going to make it my purpose to thank Him more often -for salvation; for life; for Him.  And maybe one day I will be able to give thanks in everything because that is His will for us (I Thess. 5:18). What about you?  Have you thanked God today?

Have You Ever Taken a Drink of Living Water?

When I was a kid growing up in the fifties this was a pump at one of the neighbors where you could get a drink. We’d be running around outside playing ball. The humidity is usually high in western Pennsylvania in the summer time. Sweat would be dripping. But the water that came out of this well was nice and cool. One kid would pump and the others would cup their hands to get a nice refreshing drink. You could feel it restoring life to your body.

Jesus offers Living Water

One day Jesus needed to go through Samaria. This was unusual because the Jews had no love for the Samaritans. There He met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. He asked her for a drink. She was perplexed. “How is it that you ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? (John 4:9). He responded, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you,Give Me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

Curiously she asked, “Where then do you get that living water?”  Jesus explained, “Whoever drinks this water will thirst again. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Jesus Water is Everlasting Life

I drank from that old pump and was thirsty again. But I took one drink from Jesus fifty-seven years ago and never needed another spiritual drink. Jesus gave me and gives to anyone the gift of everlasting life the moment you drink His water. Living water symbolizes everlasting life by belief in Him. Many of the Samaritans, despised by the Jews, drank His water that day; “Now we believe… for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).

If you have taken that one spiritual drink, you can know you have everlasting life. You don’t have to wait to the end to know for sure. Like the Samaritans we have the words of Jesus, “Truly, truly I say to you, He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). You receive living water (everlasting life) the moment trust in Him. It’s as simple as taking one drink of water.

I invite you to follow me as I continue to explore God’s amazing grace and assurance of heaven for anyone who has believed the gospel.

Excerpt 6– from Chapter 5, A Confusing Gospel, Assurance of Heaven Book

Excerpt 6, A Confusing Gospel –

The gospel is often presented as though it is a cure-all for every problem a person has. “Come to Jesus, and He will solve all your problems.” So what do you do when Jesus informs us that there will be tribulations (John 16:33)? Or when James writes and says to count it all joy when various trials come your way (James 1:2)? Or when Peter encourages us not to think it strange when fiery trials happen to you (1 Pet. 4:12)? Jesus doesn’t remove us from the problems, but He gives us the strength to endure if we trust Him.

 “Coming to Jesus” is not an explanation of the gospel either.

Jesus dealt with our sin by dying a substitutionary death. He took our place. Sin is our greatest problem and an insurmountable barrier from God. He broke down the barrier and provided the only way to be delivered from eternal condemnation, to receive forgiveness, and to be restored to fellowship with God. That’s our greatest need.

It is simply not true that coming to Jesus will make all your problems go away.

The apostle Paul experienced many trials and tribulations after he believed. Five times he was flogged by the Jews. Three times he was beaten with rods. He was stoned once. He was shipwrecked three times. He was in the water for a whole day and night (2 Cor. 11:24-25). God didn’t remove all his problems. If that is what you believe about the gospel, you may be looking to Jesus for the wrong reason. You may miss the truth of the gospel by seeing Jesus as a problem solver and not as your Savior from sin.

Some use the phrase, “ask Jesus in your heart”, to convey the gospel.

Others say “give Jesus your heart”. I like to be a little facetious sometimes by asking, “Which is it? Do I ask Him in my heart or do I give Him my heart”? It’s a confusing concept. What does it mean “to ask Jesus into your heart”? Once I asked a person what that meant. Upon questioning, this individual walked me through the gospel clearly. People learn that phrase when they are young. They get taught that. This person knew what it meant, but is it clear to the hearer? Communication involves both the speaker and the hearer. Does the hearer know what you mean? Most people today in America have little Biblical understanding. The average unbeliever does not know what “saved” means or even “sin.” Often the simplest things have to be explained, so people understand the message of the gospel.

A few years ago, I spoke with three older teenagers at the local county fair. They lived nearby in a neighboring community. They were willing to listen to the gospel presentation. All three stayed focused on what I was saying. They were zeroed-in. When I finished, trying to gain some insight as to what they understood, I ask them if they ever heard that before. They all replied negatively. One had never been to a church. The other two had only been to church a few times in their life.

When someone hears a convoluted message…

…and fails to understand the gospel, they may have the assurance of heaven when they shouldn’t. We can’t force people into heaven. However, our responsibility is to point them to Christ as the only way and to do so biblically and precisely. Then the responsibility is on the unbeliever to receive Him by faith or to continue in unbelief. Is Jesus merely your problem solver? Have you asked Jesus in your heart? Or have you believed the gospel, by faith alone in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ?

My Comment (This comment not in the book) – The gospel is not confusing. Jesus, fully God and fully Man died for our sins according to the Scriptures; was buried; and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures (I Cor. 15:3, 4). Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life (John 6:47). A message that isn’t clear cannot be understood. A convoluted gospel is not the gospel and it has no power in the message to saved one from the penalty of sin (Rom. 1:16). Today many lack Biblical understanding and so it takes effort to share the gospel. It may be easy to persuade someone to say a prayer, but have they understood the gospel and believed it?

Scary Bible Verses – 4 “I Will Vomit You out of My Mouth!”

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev. 3:15, 16)

In a Bible study I attended, a person passionately implied that Jesus would send you to hell for being a lukewarm Christian. Well that would have scared me out of my ‘lukewarm-ness’ for the wrong reason years ago, but no longer. I mean, now I know what Jesus meant not what some interpret from this verse. It’s not written to unbelievers. It’s written to believers about to be disciplined for their wayward attitude; “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev. 3:19). God only chastens believers (Heb. 12:5-11).

Do Lukewarm Christians end up in Hell?

In human terms, most if not all Christians are lukewarm at various times in life. We fail miserably at doing the things that God instructs us to do. But the truth is that no one is sent to hell for being lukewarm. People go there because they reject Jesus as their Savior.

The Image of Lukewarm

These verses are written to the church at Laodicea. The cities of Hierapolis and Colossae were nearby.        

  • Laodicea piped water in an aqueduct from the mountains. It was lukewarm when it arrived. The water was noted for being bad.
  • Hierapolis had hot springs that served as a therapeutic agent.
  • Colossae had a fresh supply of cold mountain water that was good for drinking.

The image demonstrated that both the cold and hot served a valued purpose. The lukewarm water of Laodicea was useless. It pictured the useless condition of the church there. If you drank the water, it would have caused you to spit it out. It portrayed Jesus’ attitude about the church at Laodicea. They disgusted Him because of their attitude toward Him and others. They thought that they were rich and had need of nothing, but Jesus told them that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). 

They Needed a Significant Change of Mind

Because of their attitude, they were out of fellowship with Him. They needed to repent. As believers they needed to change their minds about how they thought about themselves. They weren’t rich. They were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked in His eyes. That was God’s view of them. It needed to be their view so that they could be restored to fellowship with the Lord and avoid His discipline.

Restored to Fellowship

If anyone who would hear His voice and open the door, He would come in and eat with them (Rev. 3:20). This is a picture of close intimacy in the culture of His day.  They already had a relationship with Him by faith, but they weren’t walking with Him by faith. As believers they were walking according to the dictates of their old nature.

These verses aren’t about Jesus sending someone to hell. It’s about Him wanting to have close intimacy (fellowship) with His children so that they could mature (spiritually) and He would be glorified.

“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Rom. 15:5-7

Interview – Assurance of Heaven Book

I was interviewed by D.J. Allan of Home Grown Ministries yesterday. You can see my radio ‘face’ on video at https://youtu.be/vYh7Iu43tqg

D.J. is a good interviewer and asks some really good questions. He’s offering (5) free copies of my book, Assurance of Heaven, to anyone who contacts telling him why they would like the book. Check it out and give him a ‘like’. Thanks to all have purchased the book and have encouraged me in this endeavor.

Scary Bible Verses Part 3

“Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in Him; and he cannot sin”.               I John 3:9

There are a number of verses like this in First John that appear cut and dry. For that reason I shied away from reading it. I know I sin. Some say that it just refers to habitual sin which could be based on the Greek tense. In other words a ‘true’ believer cannot practice sin. If you do,then you are not saved, according to them. Listening to this teaching made me fear and caused me to lack assurance. It’s the opposite of the very thing John wants his readers to have; “Beloved, we are children of God…” (I John 3:2). He assures them here and in chapter five as well. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” (I John 5:13).

Well, my first question is always; what is the context? Does the interpretation fit the context of the passage, the book, and the entire Bible? Secondly, who is the epistle written to? Thirdly, what is the purpose of the letter?

Fellowship vs. Relationship

The apostle John is writing to fellow believers so that they could have fellowship with him, with other believers, and with the Lord (I John 1:3).  Fellowship is only available to believers, not unbelievers. All believers are in relationship with God, but not all are in fellowship. Chapter three is about abiding in Christ. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin” (I John 3:6). Abiding is the same as fellowship. It’s walking in the light as He is in the light (I John 1:7). It is living life out of the new nature. When you live out of the resource and power of the Spirit, it is impossible to sin. The new nature is born of God and cannot sin.  

Practice vs. Do

Now I readily admit I’m not a Greek scholar. But I can look things up in Greek concordances and dictionaries. In my humble opinion, this argument for ‘practicing’ doesn’t fit. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word for practice is ‘prasso’. The word used in I John 3:9 is the Greek word, ‘poieo’. Strong’s states that; ‘poieo’ refers to a single act. That makes sense because you cannot do one single act of sin when living out of the resources of the new nature. The new nature is what is born of God and cannot sin.

Sinners by nature and by practice

If you are honest with yourself, you will readily admit that you sin regularly even if it’s only one time a day in thought, word, or deed. Additionally, not doing what you should is a sin of omission. One sin a day for a month certainly would be a practice, wouldn’t it? The truth is we are sinners by nature and by practice. John made it clear in chapter one that all sin – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).

Some sinners are worse than others

In comparison to one another, certainly some are worse sinners than others. You can look at the Bible and see that some believers were more faithful than others. But even the best in the Bible sinned is some significant ways. Often they suffered the results of their sin, but it didn’t keep them from entering the kingdom of heaven.

The way you live matters!

God’s will for us is our sanctification (I Thess. 4:3). Sanctification is living a life that is set apart unto God. He gave us a new nature and the Spirit to give us the power to do the things He wants us to do. His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; and that we should live godly and soberly (Titus 2:11).  I’m not trying to say that it doesn’t matter how you live. It does matter. It just impossible to determine how much sinning proves that you’re not saved.

Those who teach that practicing sinners are not saved should look at themselves. They are laying heavy burdens on people, which they themselves cannot do (Matt. 23:4). John has written this epistle to believers, encouraging them to walk in the light so that they would remain in fellowship with the Lord; not so they could go to heaven. As a believer, abiding in Christ is the only way to live a purposeful, functional, and fruitful life. When abiding in Him you cannot sin, because you are living out of the new nature that is born of God. But no one abides in Him 100% of the time.

Scary Bible Verses Part 2

This is another verse that caused me some fearful moments.  “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (James 2:17). Have I done enough good works to prove that I am really saved? For my book, Assurance of Heaven, I examined 32 commentaries on this verse. Twenty-seven basically stated that if you do not have works, it is proof that you’re not saved. Two of the commentaries were convoluted and only three were clear that these were saved persons failing to show forth spiritual fruit.

Well which is it? If you see these as unbelievers, which most people do, then you will be motivated to do a lot of good things for the wrong reason. You’ll try to do things to make you feel secure that you are on your way to heaven. But you will never have any rest for your soul, because you will never know if you have done enough.

The certainty of entering the kingdom of God is not in what we do, but in what God has done for us. Assurance is in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in the promise of God, who cannot lie, that whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life (John 3:16).

Context is key!

As always, context is the key to understanding the Bible. The book of James was written to believers. Fifteen times in the book, he refers to them as ‘brethren’ or ‘beloved brethren’, a reference to their spiritual relationship. God brought them forth (He gave spiritual birth to them) by the word of truth (James 1:18). But they had a number of sin issues. They were not being doers of the word (James 1:22). This resulted in showing partiality to the richer brother (James 2:3, 4). They were living according to the wisdom of the world (James 3:13, 14). They were fighting and warring with one another (James 4:1). James called them spiritual adulterers and adulteresses (James 4:4). You cannot commit adultery if you have no relationship with another. The same is true with our relationship with God. In other words they had a relationship with Christ, but they were living according to the principles of the world.

Dead doesn’t mean non-existent

James used the example of a brother or sister in need of food. What does it profit the needy brother or sister, if you do not give them the help they need? (James 2:16) It doesn’t help them and is an example of dead (inactive) faith. Dead doesn’t mean non-existent. It simply means inactive or barren.

Good works are not automatic

Good works are not automatic in the life of a believer. “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).  New believers must be taught many things. One of those is to be attentive to the needs of others.

Our old nature is self-focused. When you are born again, God doesn’t eradicate it. He gives you a new nature created in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). As believers we should be learning to live out of the new nature by faith. This is a moment by moment, day by day, response to life. Are you being led by the Spirt or are you living out the resources of the old nature (the flesh)?

Failing to walk by faith

The believers to whom James wrote were saved by faith. But they weren’t walking by faith. They were walking according to the old nature, fulfilling the lusts of it. They needed to become doers of the word and not simply hearers only, deceiving themselves (James 1:22). On the positive they would be blessed by being a doer. However, failing to be a doer could eventually lead to premature physical death (James 1:15).  As believers we are not immune from living a sinful lifestyle. But realize that God never removed the consequences for living in such a way.

“The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened” (Prov. 10:27).