Bushy Run is a stream that flows through western Pennsylvania. It’s also the name of a historic site. A significant battle was fought here between the British and Native Americans led by Chief Pontiac. This picture displays the path that leads to the flour bag fort where much of the fighting took place in 1763.
Although the history is significant, for me the 213 acre park serves as place of solace and a place where I can comtemplate on our Creator. I have hiked off and on here for 50 years. The peace and serenity reminds me of a future day when everything in our world will be made right. “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A king shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” (Jeremiah 23:5)
I have probably clocked 3,000 to 4,000 miles walking the trails and paths of Bushy Run over these many years. I have walked in solitude. I have walked with friends. I have hiked on a cold snowy winter’s day and in the cool of the day on a summer morning. Those hikes through the hills have been a constant reminder; “From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1)
Autumn as beautiful as it is, reminds us that winter is coming. The leaves die and the bleakness of winter landscapes slowly appears. That’s why I like the snow. It covers that bleakness with a blanket of purity. “Come let us reason together, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)
We all need a place of solitude, a place where we can be without distraction. Bushy Run has been one of those places for me. Its a place that brings me close to my Creator, where I am reminded of His faithfulness and His promise of everlasting life to those who have put their faith in Him. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved”. (John 3:17) “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15)
I never had much interest in poetry. But every once in a while you come across a poem that is unique, makes you laugh, and/or communicates truth. The following one is unnamed by an unknown author concerning heaven. Although it contains some doctrinal inaccuracies, I think it captures a profound truth about the way many of us think when it comes to getting to heaven.
I was shocked, confused, bewildered as I entered Heaven’s door; Not by the beauty of it all, Nor the lights or its décor.
But it was the folks in Heaven Who made me sputter and gasp; The thieves, the liars, the sinners; The alcoholics and the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade Who swiped my lunch money twice. Next to him was my old neighbor Who never said anything nice.
Bob, who I always thought Was rotting away in hell, Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, “What’s the deal? I would love to hear Your take. How’d all these sinners get up here? God must’ve made a mistake.”
“And why is everyone so quiet, So somber; give me a clue.” “Hush, child,” He said, “They’re all in shock! No one thought they’d seeyou!”
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we can be good enough to be accepted by God. That’s because we compare ourselves to others; especially the thieves, druggies, and the immoral. “I’m better than those people”, I tell myself. “God will accept me because I’m a good person”, I reason.
But before a holy God, “there is none righteous, not even one”. (Romans 3:10) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (Romans 3:23) Maybe the most self-righteous man before his conversion, the apostle Paul, after his conversion counted all his good works as rubbish (Philippians 3:8). He had hunted down Christians, threw them in jail and had them executed, thinking he was working for the Lord. (Acts 8:3) He approved the killing of Stephen (Acts 8:1). I’m sure he surprised Stephen the day he showed up at the Pearly Gates.
The fact is that heaven will be full of thieves, murders, adulterers, alcoholics, and many others. Rahab was a harlot. Samson was a womanizer. Jacob was a deceiver. David committed adultery and murder. Solomon worshipped other gods, sacrificing his children to them. Some in the Corinthian church got drunk while participating in the Lord’s supper. Others chased after riches and strayed from the faith. (I Timothy 6:10) The Bible is full of imperfect people who will be in heaven. The BIG question, “Will you be there?
There is only one way. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) His death on the cross paid for all of our sins; past present and future. His resurrection proved that He is God and that His sacrifice was all sufficientto restore man’s relationship with God. There’s not one thing we can add to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that will make us more acceptable to God. Will you stand before God one day with all your rubbish? Or will you stand before Him with Jesus as your Savior? It simply requires a faith response from you to the Lord. Will you surprise someone in heaven someday?
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified”. (II Cor. 13:5)Are you disqualified? Have you done enough, behaved good enough? Many infer that you are to look to your good works and righteous living to prove (to yourself and others, I guess) that you are indeed saved (Qualified). But questions arise; “How many good works do you have to do and how righteous do you have to be?” How does one measure those things?
I wrote about this verse in my book, Assurance of Heaven. Following is an excerpt from the chapter explaining the proper interpretation that will help those who have believed in Christ to be secure in their faith.
Understanding II Corinthians 13:3
‘At one time, I used this verse out of context. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” In other words, make sure you are persevering as evidence you are a “true” believer. A fellow brother in the Lord told me that he tells his adult children this. But, how many times do you have to examine yourself to conclude you are indeed in the kingdom? It seems to me that a better solution would be to have a conversation about the Lord. In doing so, it would be easier to know what they have trusted to save from the penalty of sin. If they have placed their faith in the person and work of Christ, then it would be better to reassure them that they are saved, because Jesus says they are. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
When well-meaning folks tell others to examine themselves, they are only training them to look at their works (religious activity) and behavior. This results in only two possibilities. I am in because I think I’m a good person, or I am not because I’m not living righteously enough. It leads to the road of self-righteousness or the road of despair. In my case, it could have led me to despair, except that I weaved through all the erroneous teaching by comparing it to God’s Word. In the end, examining your works doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. When it comes to being delivered from the penalty of sin, has one believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? That is the issue.
No one is ever told in Scripture to look at your works to determine whether you’re saved or not. (Not even in the book of James as we will see in Chapter 14.) It may be good for believers to do so to determine whether they are in fellowship with the Lord. Do I need to confess some sinful way and forsake it, to be delivered from the power of sin, so that I am glorifying God with my life and have his hand of blessing on me? That should be a continual practice, but not to determine whether one is saved or not from the penalty of sin.
So what does this verse mean? Well, first of all, trying to understand any verse out of context will usually lead you to a wrong understanding. The background here is that the Corinthian church questioned the proof of Christ speaking in the apostle (2 Cor. 13:3). In the three chapters before this, he is defending his apostleship (10-12). He appeals to the signs of a true apostle that were accomplished among them, “in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:12).
Back in chapter three, he wrote they were “an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, the heart” (v. 3). From this you can see the apostle is not questioning the sincerity of their salvation. However, they questioned his authority to speak on behalf of Christ: “since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me” (2 Cor. 13:3).
He tells them to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith. If they answer yes, then they are the proof that Christ is speaking in the apostle, because Christ saved them through Paul’s ministry of the gospel (Acts 18:1-11). Thomas Stegall points out, according to the grammar of the verse, Paul assumes the Corinthians are not “disqualified,” but are truly “in the faith” and “Christ is in [them].” In other words, the apostle expected them to respond positively that they were in the faith. Thus, ironically by affirming they were saved, they were also affirming the truth and proof that Christ was speaking in the apostle.’
This verse has nothing to do with looking at your performance to judge whether you are in the faith. Anyone who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ is saved and has eternal life.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
Autumn here in western Pennsylvania is an amazing palet of God’s design. It inspired me to write a gospel tract a couple years ago that would incorporate many of God’s beautiful colors.
Most of us find it difficult to share the gospel. But one simple way is a good gospel tract. It can be left on the table at a restaurant or handed to a cashier at the grocery store. They can be used in a very non-confrontational way.
This particular tract helps you to go through the gospel verbally as well. By following the colors, it will give a clear presentation of the gospel. It’s simply explained in four parts: God’s is holy; we are helpless sinners; Jesus died in our place; and the only requirement is for a person to believe in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A color- coded wrist band can be used also and given to the individual along with the tract to help them remember these truths.
A few follow up questions on the back helps to determine what the individual has understood.
Do you understand the following statements to true?
Jesus is God.
You are not perfect. God is perfect. He is holy.
Your goodness or religious efforts can’t save you.
You are a helpless sinner unable to save yourself.
Jesus died for your sins. He took the punishment that you deserve.
His death paid for all sins (past, present, and future).
Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.
Jesus is the only One that can save you from eternal death and give you everlasting life.
Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
It concludes with the following paragraph:
Do you understand all the above statements and do you BELIEVE that they are true? If you believe these are true of you and of God then the Bible gives you 100% assurance that you have everlasting life, that you are ‘born again’; that you have complete forgiveness; and that you are restored to a relationship with God.
Use a tract to share the gospel with someone this week. It can have eternal value! Check out the whole tract at Moments with the Book. (Caution: Not all gospel tracts are equal. I do not endorse all the gospel tracts at this site)
Have you ever fished all night? Have you fished and not caught anything? I can remember fishing all night one time when I was a kid. We caught one fish between the four of us. I couldn’t wait to go home and go to bed.
Peter, Andrew, James and John were fisherman; not as a pastime but as a profession. They had fished all night and caught nothing. Can you imagine how tired they were and how disgusted they may have been because of their lack of success? They were cleaning their nets, calling it a day when Jesus shows up.
He asked Peter to push his boat a little ways out into the water. He then began to preach to the multitudes that came to hear Him speak. What was Peter thinking? Was he excited to hear what Jesus had to say? Or was he thinking, how much longer? I’m tired and want to get some sleep!
When Jesus finished preaching, he told Peter to launch out into the deep and to let his nets down for a catch. Peter responded, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.” (Luke 5:5) Considering his circumstance, how optimistic do you think he is at this point? But the catch was so large that it almost sank two boats. The miracle revealed his heart condition before a Holy God. He said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)
But Jesus didn’t depart. That’s grace! Now He had men he could use. Men that recognized their condition and their need. He didn’t rebuke Peter. He only called Him and the others to “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19)
Peter may have made the catch of his lifetime, but it was he who was caught. When they came back to shore, they forsook all and followed Him. Jesus wasn’t looking for perfect men, just faithful ones. Who or what has caught your passion and life? Is it a nice house, cars, sports, education, or even family? Is it a good job and financial security? Or is it Him who graciously calls out to you, “Follow Me?”
The lyrics below are from a hymn titled, My Faith has Found a Resting Place, composed by Elizabeth E. Hewitt in the late1800s. She knew something of eternal security and the peace that comes from trusting in Jesus.
She was born in Philadelphia in 1851. She became a teacher, but a spinal injury forced her to be bed ridden when she began to write poetry. Although her condition eventually improved, this one was set to music and became a beautiful praise song.
My faith has found a resting place, Not in device nor creed; I trust the Ever-living One, His wounds for me shall plead.
Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt; A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me.
My heart is leaning on the Word, The written Word of God, Salvation by my Savior’s name, Salvation through His blood.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me.
My great Physician heals the sick, The lost He came to save; For me His precious blood He shed, For me His life He gave. [Refrain]
The following article on eternal security is taken from an online publication, Foundations: Building the Faith. It’s used by Village Ministries International in their disciple making minisrty around the world. They seek to evangelize the lost and to equip the saints by training local pastors to teach others.
Foundations can be downloaded for free at https://villageministries.org. It is very good resource that can be used to help new believers grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Concerning eternal security, they base their understanding on four different approaches:
1. The Logical Approach
Now, let us consider three examples of a Logical Approach to Eternal Security. First, since salvation is by grace through faith and not works, then salvation cannot be lost through works such as sin (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, since the “new birth” makes us “sons of God,” then our failures cannot change whom our Father is (John 1:12-13; 2 Timothy 2:13). Third, since God did the most for us while we were His enemies by saving us, He would not do less for us now that we are saved by casting us off (Romans 5:9-10).
2. The Positional Approach
The Positional Approach to Eternal Security is based on the fact that the Believer is said to be “in” Jesus Christ and that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). In Christ, the love of the Father for the Believer is equal to the Father’s love for His Son, especially since we are now also His sons (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:38-39; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:5-8). In fact, we already share Christ’s resurrection, which is not subject to death (Ephesians 2:6). Another important consideration is that the “Head” cannot remove members of His body and have a complete body (1 Corinthians 12:13). We will always be a part of Him.
3. The Protective Approach
The Protective Approach to Eternal Security is based on Christ’s present session at the right hand of the Father where He is our defense attorney who battles Satan (1 John 2:1-2; Revelation 12:10). He was the Mediator (“man-in-the-middle”) between God and man who gained for man a better covenant (Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). Now He intercedes for His elect so as to secure and protect them (Romans 8:31-39). Anyone who tries to “snatch His sheep from His hand” is attacking the Omnipotence of the Father and Son (John 10:27-29). (Author’s note: that seems secure to me!)
4. The Spiritual Approach
The Spiritual Approach to Eternal Security is based on our relationship to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes unsaved mankind, born in the flesh of “corruptible seed,” and at the point of faith in Jesus Christ causes them to be born of “incorruptible seed.” Thus, we cannot again die (1 Corinthians 15:42, 52; 1 Peter 1:22-25; John 11:25-26). There are also several gifts given to us at the instant of salvation that are presented as complete and irrevocable, which come from the Holy Spirit (Romans 11:29). The Holy Spirit indwells the Believer at the point of salvation and is the down payment on the Believer’s resurrection body (Romans 8:9; 1 John 2:27; 2 Corinthians 1:22). The Holy Spirit also baptizes those who believe into union with Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 John 2:27) and seals the Believer with respect to the day of redemption (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13, 14; 4:30). **
Anyone can have100% assurance of going to heaven, when trusting in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. That is the gospel.But many lack complete assurance because they subtly begin to focus on their thoughts and behavior rather than on the Savior.We don’t look to ourselves for assurance. We look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).Assurance can only come from taking God at His word.
I invite you to follow with me as we continue to explore God’s amazing grace and assurance of heaven to everyone that believes the gospel.
Have you ever ask someone, “Are you 100% sure you will go to heaven when you die?” This is often referred to in Christianity as the doctrine of eternal security. Some will argue that it’s impossible to know. Others will say that you can choose to walk away from God. There are also those who believe you can commit an act of sin that will keep you out.
Most Christians struggle with this. Often we struggle with believing God can’t forgive a certain sin. I struggled with this for a short time in my life. That’s why I wrote the book, Assurance of Heaven, in hopes of helping others know that you can be 100% sure.
1. The truth is that the gospel is meant to give one assurance. Without assurance of one’s relationship with Christ, it’s impossible to live an abundant life. It’s kind of like living with a spouse who doesn’t trust you. How can that relationship ever grow?
2. The gospel offers the believer everlasting life. Jesus said that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:47 and many other verses). I often ask my Sunday school class, “How long is everlasting life? And of course they answer, “It lasts forever.”
3. What can you do to lose EVERLASTING LIFE? If there was something you could do, it wouldn’t be everlasting life. Jesus gave no exceptions to it. Jesus paid for the sins of the entire world (Heb. 2:9; John 1:29). Even if you were to walk away from the relationship, you can never cease to be His child.
Every person is born into the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). We are born again, ONCE. We become His child. You may become a disobedient child (Gal. 5:17). You may lose fellowship [close personal intimacy] (I John 1:6). You may suffer consequences for your disobedience (Gal. 6:7). You may be disciplined by the Lord (Heb. 12:5). You may go home via an early death (I Cor. 11:30). You may receive no reward for faithful service (I Cor. 3:15). But you can never cease to be God’s child once you’re born again. Just like our children, God’s children are no less His children whether they are obedient or not. Disobedience brings a variety of significant consequences, but never the loss of salvation for the child of God.
4. Everlasting life begins at the moment of faith in Christ. You don’t have to wait to die to see if you have it. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (I John 5:13).
Some manuscripts omit the second part of verse 13, “that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God”. John didn’t add this to cause them to doubt their assurance. This clause is added to encourage them to keep growing in the faith. Believers can drift away (Heb. 2:1), fall away (Heb. 6:6; Luke 8:13), bear no fruit to maturity (Luke 8:14), stumble because of tribulation (Matt. 13:21), or can become useless in their relationship with God (II Peter 1:8).
But God remains faithful (II Tim. 2:13) and will never let His children be snatched out of His hand for they are kept by the power of God through faith (the initial belief in the gospel) for salvation (I Peter 1:5). The Bible uses assurance to motivate us to steadfastness in the faith.
The more we understand the grace of God the more likely we will grow in our relationship with Him. It’s His grace that gives us assurance and it’s His grace that motivates us to live Godly (Titus 2:11). “…Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all you conduct…” (I Peter 1:13-15).
This is the view from my parents porch at about 6:30 AM on Monday, July 13th. The hospice nurse had just left a few minutes before this, confirming that my mother had passed away. We knew where she was. She had trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior many years ago. Now she is absent from her body and present with the Lord! (I Cor. 5:8) We were blessed to have had her for 91 years.
“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her.” (Prov. 31:10, 11). I know a lot of honest people, but my mother was the most honest person I knew. Honesty is the language of God and she spoke that in her words and actions.
We had many spiritual conversations over the years. The one that impacted me the most had to do with taking me to church. She thought that I needed to go to church. I was only a toddler at the time. She was about 25 years old. Still very young.
She had been baptized as an infant in the Lutheran church. Her mother died at the age of 49. My mother was 16 at the time and became the care giver for my grandfather and her younger sister. It was 1945 and my two uncles, her brothers, were fighting to help to win the war. I don’t think going to church was high on her priority list at the time.
Soon after her and I attended a service, she heard a sermon that bothered her. In fact, she said it made her angry. The pastor had preached a message from Romans chapter 3. The particular verse was verse 12; “There is none who does good, no, not one”.
She thought that her dad, my grandfather, was a good man. He would help anybody. And he would. He was a trustworthy man, rough around the edges, and gruff sometimes in his approach. In human terms, he was a good human being, but not without faults. She thought, “Why wouldn’t God accept him?”
So she left church that day intending not to go back. But the Holy Spirit graciously changed her mind and she returned. In her returning, she came to the realization that “there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin”. (Eccl. 7:20) She understood that in comparison to the Lord who is holy, there is no way any human could ever measure up. She realized she needed a Savior to deliver her from sin. And she also knew that my brother and I needed a Savior as well.
That pivotal point in her decision to return has impacted three generations. Her grandchildren have come to trust in the Savior. And at least two of her great grandkids have come to trust in the Lord Jesus as Savior. Not only that but several people spoke at her funeral about the influence she had on them for Christ.
My grandfather was a sinner. My mother was a sinner. I am a sinner. My kids and grandkids are sinners. All of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) But in His infinite love, mercy, and grace, Jesus paid our sin debt on the cross and rose again. He’s the only way to the Father. (John 14:6).
My mother realized that no amount of good works, church participation, or religious duty could ever take away our sin. I am thankful for the decision she made to return. I am thankful for a preacher who taught the truth. I am thankful for the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). Because of it, she came to know the Lord and many others came to know Him. She is an example of a life well lived. And we can take comfort in her departure, knowing “that if our earthly house , this tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”. (II Cor. 5:1). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (I Cor. 9:15)
The doomsday clock is set at two minutes to midnight. Some scientists and politicians think that climate change will destroy the earth in less than 12 years unless we do something. Predictions about the end of the world abound. In January of 1989 my wife and I walked into a bookstore. A book caught my eye. It had to do with 88 reasons why Jesus would come back in 1988. It was 50% off. Men’s predictions of the end of the world are always foolish.
Jesus is coming again. There’s no doubt about it. We just don’t know when. What many fail to realize is that there are two future comings of the Lord. One day Jesus will come back to rule and reign on earth. This will happen immediately after “great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world” (Matt. 24:21). This is commonly referred to as the second coming.
But prior to this He is coming back for His church – all those who have trusted in Him as Savior. He will descend from heaven with a shout and “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:15-17). This is referred to as the rapture. And though the word is not in the Bible the concept is.
At the rapture the believers are removed from earth to meet the Lord in the air. Only unbelievers are left on the earth. Many of them come to faith in Christ after the rapture (Rev. 7:9-14). Then at the second coming, when Christ returns to earth, those who have come to faith in Christ and survived the tribulation remain on the earth to enter in Christ’s kingdom on earth. He then reigns for a thousand years. Those who have continued in unbelief are removed to judgment (Rev. 20: 6; Luke 17:37).
When Christ comes back in the air (the rapture) to remove the church, this is an imminent event. It can happen at any time. It could happen today or it may not happen for years. The Scripture teaches the believer to be “looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). This truth should comfort us; not make us fear (I Thes. 4:18). The Bible tells us about the future tribulation, but does not instruct believers to look for it or the coming antichrist.