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). 

Scary Bible Verses

Often when we read the Bible we come across verses that cause us to fear. It may be that we have listened to someone who wrongly explained the verse. Typically a wrong understanding comes from misunderstanding the context. This month I am going to write about some that have caused me angst in the past.

Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”  And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:22, 23)

This verse used to scare me, thinking I could hear, “I never knew you”. Was I doing enough? Was I good enough? I mean these guys had done great things – prophesied, cast out demons, and did many wonders; all in the name of Jesus. They even acknowledged Jesus as Lord! But He never knew them. The word for ‘knew’ implies relationship. Jesus had no relationship with them though they thought they had one with Him.

They were denied entrance because they had not done the will of the Father.  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)

Jesus makes the will of Father very clear: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day ”(John 6:40). The one who has believed (relied) on Jesus to save them is the one who enters the kingdom of God. At the moment of faith in Jesus, you are born again. Like natural birth, you are spiritually born once and you can never be unborn.  

The ones in Matthew 7 were trying to enter into the kingdom according to their good works; their good deeds. They had never entered into a faith relationship with Him. They thought that everlasting life and entering the kingdom was by self-effort; by doing things for Jesus.

When you understand the context of this verse in light of the rest of Scripture, no one ever enters the kingdom because of the great things they do. There is only one way. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  Any other way, is the way to perish. I have talked with many that believe they will get in because they are good. But Jesus will say to them that He never knew them, if they continue in unbelief.  You can never do enough and you can never be good enough.

This verse should not scare you if you have trusted in Jesus to save you. He is our sufficient Substitute. He took our place.  He paid our sin debt and offers everlasting life to all who believe in Him (John 6:47). He promises that no one can snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28). He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:4). He is faithful even when we are not (II Tim 2:13). By faith, learn to rest in the security that you have in Him.

God made it simple. Jesus did all that is necessary to enter the kingdom. There is nothing for us to do. He died to pay our sin debt so we have no debt to pay. He rose from the grave offering us everlasting life as a free gift to anyone who will trust in Him alone. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31); and then will you never have to be fearful of hearing those words, “I never knew you.”

Are You Being Fruitful?

My aunt would have a basket of fruit on her dining room table for decoration. It looked very real, but you would break your teeth if you tried to eat it. It was man made. It looked like the genuine thing, but it was fake. If I were to be honest, I spent a lot of time in my life trying to produce spiritual fruit. It can look like real fruit, but it’s really only an imitation.

Jesus used a vivid illustration to demonstrate this truth to His disciples (John 15:1-6). He said He was the vine and the Father was the vinedresser. His disciples were the branches. They would not bear fruit unless they abided (remained) in the vine (v. 4).  In fact without Him they could do nothing (v.5).

It’s impossible to live the Christian life in the power of the old nature. The old nature (flesh) is incapable of bearing spiritual fruit. It drives my emotions to make me feel good about the religious things I do. It’s the mentality that I gain God’s favor by doing things for God. The sin nature (flesh) can do a lot of good for the wrong reasons. You can go to church, pray, give, and even read your Bible with the wrong motivation. Those can actually be self-serving activities that you are producing in the flesh. They can make you ‘feel’ accepted by God.

But if a believer is abiding in Christ, the motivation is different. Now I am resting in Him by faith and the motivation is to serve Him; not because I have to but because I want to. It originates from a thankful heart (inner control center) that is being energized by the word of God through the Spirit of God out of love for God in the new nature. It’s walking in the Spirit. Then and only then will you bear fruit, because He is producing the fruit in you and through you. Like a branch you bear the fruit. You don’t produce the fruit. Branches cannot bear acceptable fruit when not connected to the vine (Jesus).

As believers we must understand that when we believed in Jesus, He “made you accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).  Jesus did everything.  You and I cannot gain anymore of God’s favor. That should be the primary motivational factor of abiding in Christ. The more you and I realize how wretched we are before a holy God, how gracious He is, and that He accepts us in Christ; the more likely I will want to follow and serve Him. It doesn’t mean that I’ll stop sinning. It simply means I can rest and know I am secure in Him. He produces the fruit and we bear His fruit when abiding in Him. This is the only way we can live the Christian life – it’s by God’s grace through faith.

So may I ask, are you bearing fruit or producing fruit? Are you working to gain His favor? Or are you resting in Him, knowing that you are accepted in the Beloved? If you are resting in Him, you will bear fruit.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

Excerpt 5 – from Chapter 4, Three Tenses of Salvation; Assurance of Heaven Book

I was a Christian for twenty years before I began to realize the Bible taught not only that a believer has been saved but is also being saved and one day will be saved. This spiritual truth surfaced after I began to read and study the Bible. Salvation is not only a past event; it is also a present experience and will be one day a final and completed deliverance. It was several years after this that I understood it in the following way: that a believer has been delivered from the penalty of sin, is being delivered from the power of sin, and one day will be delivered from the presence of sin. The penalty, power, and presence of sin parallel the biblical terminology of justification, sanctification, and glorification.

There are many Christians that have been raised in churches that have two chairs theology (more about this in Chapter 8). You are either saved or unsaved. I remember when I was baptized as an outward profession of my faith in Jesus Christ, the church greeted me along with the others who were baptized that day. Since I was a young man, I had the impression that I had arrived. I was going to heaven. But I failed to understand that the gift of everlasting life begins at the moment of faith. You don’t have to wait to die to get it. I also didn’t realize salvation from the penalty of sin is only the beginning of the race, not the end of the race. And I believe many evangelical churches have given that impression to a lot of new believers over the years. Because of it, these churches as a whole have failed to make disciples. This failure has produced numbers of believers who lack good biblical understanding, do not grow to spiritual maturity, and lack assurance of their salvation.

Why does it matter? It matters for a number of reasons. First of all, God wants to deliver us from the power of sin so we can live a productive spiritual life that glorifies Him and is good for us. So if one is unaware of this theological truth, how would it be possible to grow and to glorify God?

Secondly, it is significant to understand Scripture correctly, so one does not become confused and is not taken captive by poor teaching, causing fear and doubt. For example, the word “save” or “saved” doesn’t always mean to be delivered from sin’s penalty, which is eternal death. Sometimes the Bible uses it about a child of God being saved from the power of sin. Sometimes it is used of someone being saved from a dangerous situation. It’s not always a reference to being saved from hell. But if you have a theology that doesn’t allow for a third chair, then you almost always see it in reference to salvation from hell.

My Comment (This comment is not in the book): One of the biggest mistakes in understanding the Bible is only seeing two options – heaven or hell. Many Christians are not aware of the present tense aspect of salvation. Everyday God desires to deliver me from the power of sin so that I can live in a way that is good for me and glorifies Him. But the deliverance from the power of sin depends on how willing I am to surrender the circumstances of life to His control, relying on His power to control my thoughts and actions. Will I overcome evil with more evil? Or will I overcome evil with good? (Rom. 12:21). Am I going to be led by the Spirit or will I respond in the flesh? (Gal. 5:15-17)  How will you respond today?

Redeem the Time

As I walked at a nearby park, I remembered a similar day several years ago walking with a friend.  It was a day, if I recall correctly, in the spring.  A man on a motorcycle rode passed us on the entrance road and promptly made a U-turn exiting the park. He was clearly on a joy ride on a beautiful spring day.

As we continued to walk, about fifteen to twenty minutes later a fire whistle began to blow in the distance.  It wasn’t until a couple days later that I learned that the man on the bike was involved in an accident and fatally injured only a few minutes after we had seen him.

All of us have had experiences such as this.  It brings us into focus with our mortality – as the world might say “here today and gone tomorrow.”  But we must be careful not to adopt the world’s philosophy about life.  The way we live matters to God (Psalm 1).

The Scriptures are very clear that this life is brief.  James describes it as a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (4:14) David asked of the Lord, “…make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am.  Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight.” (Ps 39:4, 5)  In Psalm 144, David describes our days “like a mere breath; …days are like a passing shadow.”(v. 4)

Yet in our brevity the Lord desires us to do something of spiritual value and for eternity.  Jesus did not save us so that we might live for ourselves.  He saved us so that we should serve Him in the newness of life. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17)   Whether you’re ministering, teaching, working, cooking, vacationing, etc. do it as unto the Lord.  We serve Him by serving others in love. (Gal 5:13, 14) Not one of us knows the number of our days, and we could be in His presence sooner than we think.

We are justified the moment we trust in Him and have everlasting life. Our future place with Him is sure. But He didn’t save us just to wait until the day we die so we can live with Him forever. His will for us is our sanctification (I Thess. 4:3). He desires us to grow spiritually so that we can live abundantly now (John 10:10). But this only happens when we surrender to Him in the moments of time and the circumstances of life by faith. In doing so, our life will be purposeful, fruitful, and functional; and we will glorify His name.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

A Day at the Fair

The last several years I have spent time at ministry booths at fairs and town festivals attempting to share the gospel with people. I think that I know people well enough not to be surprised by the way they think. But someone always blind sides me with something that I never experienced before.

In one particular case a while ago, as I was sharing the gospel, I stopped and asked a group if they had ever done anything wrong. Typically the response is affirmative; “everybody does, no one is perfect”. It’s a point in the gospel presentation when a person needs to recognize they are separated from God because of sin.  But one person said “no”. I double checked. “You never did anything wrong?” “No”. Then I proceeded to ask a couple probing questions along that line. “Did you ever tell a lie?” “No” again was the answer.  “Never told a lie?” “No”. At that point, in my mind I wanted to say you just lied by saying you never lied.

I continued. “Did you ever steal anything no matter how small?” Again the answer was “No”.  I persisted. This one should get you to admit you’ve done some wrong things. “Have you ever had a bad thought?” “No”.  Wow, a person that never had a bad thought! That’s pretty incredible. Well the next question was kind of off the wall, but it struck the right nerve. Did you ever fight with anyone?  Kind of smiling and nodding the person at that point realized that no one is perfect.

This individual is no different than the rest of us. It’s our pride that keeps us from believing that we need a Savior. If you probe long enough and deep enough, everyone comes to realize they are sinners. Most however, do not recognize that they are helpless sinners. Most think they can fix their situation by trying to have their good outweigh their bad. But that’s an impossible thing to figure out. The truth is we cannot fix our relationship with God by being good, trying to be good, or promising to be good. The Lord had to fix it and He did.

So why not just agree with what God says about us? He says that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  He says that we can’t be good enough. In comparison to Him, “There is none who does good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12). Then accept His free gift of salvation by faith in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). It’s that simple. This person eventually did.

Assurance of Heaven Book Excerpt 4 – The Gospel – What is it?

Most of us are taught from the time we are a toddler, if you are good, you will be praised. If you do well in school, you may be rewarded with a scholarship. If you work hard in your career, you will get a raise and may be promoted. Everything we know is based upon our performing, our doing the right things to receive the reward. We carry the same thinking over into our concept of God. We have devised our own God if we think we can be restored to a relationship with Him by trying to be good enough. No one deserves to go to heaven, and no one can be good enough to get there. Many add to this confusion by frontloading or backloading the gospel. For now, let’s make sure we understand the gospel. What is it? The Bible defines it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover brethren I delivered to you the gospel… For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

The truth is that the gospel is simple. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, died to pay the penalty for our sins. He died in our place. He was our sufficient substitute. They buried Him in a tomb and on the third day He rose from the dead, proving that He has the power over sin and death. After His resurrection, He was seen alive by five hundred people (1 Cor. 15:5-9). Man’s only response to be saved from eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire is to believe in Him. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). The word “believe” in the Bible means to be persuaded of, to put confidence in. Believing is a faith response. It requires that an individual understands his need for a savior. Everyone is guilty. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “All” has serious implications for the human race. Each person is a condemned sinner, helpless to restore one’s relationship with God because He is holy and we are not. “To believe in His name” means to accept the truth about His identity and His history.

My comment (These comments not in the book): Every person has an identity and a history. If I said Mother Theresa, what would you think? …Maybe a saintly woman? How about George Washington? …Our first president. Hitler? …A murderous dictator. How about Margie Beckner? …Who? Well she was a wonderful aunt to me; my dad’s oldest sister. You see everyone has a history and identity. You put your trust in them based on the information you have.

Jesus’ identity is that He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is fully God and fully Man (John 1:1; Phil 2:7). He holds all things together by the word of His power (Col. 1:15). His history is that He would be crucified and rise from the dead (Matt. 16:21). His death was payment for the sins of the world (John 1:29). He rose from the dead on the third day proving that He is Lord and Christ [Messiah] (Acts 2:36). He says that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:15). Is Jesus’ identity and history worthy to be trusted? I believe it is. How bout you?

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Flip Wilson, a comedian, popularized that phrase back in 70s. It’s funny because we all would like to blame the wrong things that we do on someone else. But in reality we only have ourselves to blame. The devil doesn’t make us do anything.

The prophet Jeremiah explained that the heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). The New Testament affirms this truth through the apostle Paul; “For I know that in me (that is, my flesh) nothing good dwells…” (Rom. 7:18). Paul said this after he had been a believer for a number of years. My main enemy is myself. The devil certainly influences and tempts, but it is my heart that is deceitful above all things. My heart is even more deceitful than the devil.

Many Christians fail to understand that God didn’t remove the old nature (flesh) when we were saved. As an unbeliever we only had an old nature. The Christian, however, has both an old and new nature. When you were saved, God didn’t make your old nature better, nor did He remove it. He gave you a new nature “which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). If we only had a new nature, we would not sin.

Do you struggle with sin? If you do it’s because you have two natures. “The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17). It’s that old nature that is the cause of our sinful behaviors and action. However, when walking in the Spirit you cannot sin.

Regardless, we are still responsible for our decisions and actions. As believers, we can’t blame our old nature when we sin. It’s our responsibility to begin to learn how to live out of the new nature by faith. This can only happen when we begin to read the Bible, the word of God, learning to understand truth, applying it to our daily living, while depending on the Spirit of God for the power to do what God says we should do.  

Failure to mature and grow as believer won’t keep you out of heaven, but it makes one unfruitful and dysfunctional in life (II Pet. 1:8). There are consequences for sin and sometimes they can be disastrous. Most importantly, though, your life will fail to glorify God.  

Does God Grade on a Curve?

Are you a good person? You’re probably better than me. The problem with thinking this way is you don’t get into the kingdom of heaven by being better than me. You have to be as good as God.  But many people think God grades on a curve. They are trusting in their good acts to outweigh the wrong they have done.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Say I stole a car. The judge is about to sentence me. I shout out, “Wait a minute Judge! Before you sentence me, consider the fact that I’m a really good person. And I only stole one car. Think about all the cars I could have stolen, but I only took this one.” Would a good judge find me not guilty and let me go?  I don’t think so.

Our good can never take away the bad things we do. There are human penalties for committing wrong actions. So if an earthly judge doesn’t overlook our crimes, why do we think a holy and just God will ignore our wrong, our sin?

The truth is; He doesn’t. Sin required a payment – spiritual death; separation from God forever. But He provided a way. God offered the only acceptable payment for our sin. Jesus paid our sin penalty on the cross. He took the penalty we all deserve. He is our sufficient Substitute. Now there is no sin debt to pay. But God requires an individual response to receive the benefit of the payment. You must transfer your trust from yourself to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the only way you can stand before a holy God. When a helpless sinner trusts in Christ, he or she passes from (spiritual) death to (spiritual) life. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).   

For more information on how to begin a relationship with God, go to: