Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Deaf Hear, the Blind See, and the Poor Have Good News Preached to Them

I recently saw the following video (from the UK's The Telegraph), which shows the moment when a British woman, apparently deaf from birth, is able to hear for the first time because of a cochlear implant.

It’s pretty thrilling, and especially to see how overwhelmed she is by it. You can't help but be so happy for her.

As I watched this video I thought to myself, My Jesus does this all the time. He takes people who are unable to hear the real truth, who are blinded to the light of the gospel, and He changes them. He gives them ears to hear, spiritual sight, and He forever changes them.

And there’s coming a day when we will be in His presence, and we’ll be able to hear and see and sing and think and rejoice because all the interference of this world will drop away.

No wonder there’s joy unspeakable and full of glory. No wonder we love Him so much.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


My friend Mike Cornish shared the following reflections at the last meeting of our elder board. It was both a challenge and a blessing to me, so I asked Mike's permission to post it. I particularly like Mike's opening series of questions.

What will be your legacy?

As Christians we must look no further than the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as our legacy model.  Will people remember you as a man of God? Will they recall Christ-like characteristics in your words and your deeds?  How do you handle conflict in your life?  Are you thought of as quarrelsome or as a peacemaker?  Are you considered by others as prideful or humble?  Do your words build others up or tear them down?  Is your heart filled with the love of God and the desire to share that love with others or are you driven by selfish, hedonistic desires?

Being a man of God is a full time job.  You may be a reflection of Christ on Sundays, but if someone encounters you on another day and you are a quarrelsome, prideful, hedonistic jerk, which character trait will prevail?

Sadly, your legacy will be not only remembered as the jerk, but you can now add hypocrite to the list as well!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why You May Not Have Assurance (Can You be Sure of Heaven? Part 6)

You trust in Jesus. You believe He died for your sins, and you've given your life to Him. Over time you've seen Him change you. You love Him. But you still worry if you'll make it to heaven. You're afraid you could do something that would dislodge you from His grace. 

Why? Why don’t you have full assurance that He who has the Son has the life (1 John 5:13)?
Remember my diagram that pictured the “salvation barrier” and the "assurance barrier?” I’m thinking of your situation as box #3: Saved, but not confident. So why are you in box #3 and not box #4: saved and confidentLet me offer 5 possible reasons:

1. Inadequate understanding of Bible truth. Maybe you were taught that a Christian couldn't know for sure that she was going to heaven. Or maybe you didn't realize the magnitude of God’s initiative in your salvation, and how that ultimately the decisive force in saving you and keeping you is God’s! Study the verses I shared in the last couple of posts. Hear the Lord Jesus say in John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

God's Promises: We Can Be Sure of Heaven! Part 5

Can you be sure of heaven? Yes.

Assurance of salvation comes both from persevering in obedience and holiness, and from trusting in God’s promises to protect and keep us. I've spent several posts looking at the first part of that statement, but now I want to highlight the second part by focusing on a few of God's wonderful promises to protect and keep us.

Let’s start with Ephesians 1:13-14. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In the ancient world, the process of posting  letters and packages could include a wax seal, which identified the owner/sender and guaranteed safe arrival at the destination.The Holy Spirit seals us, which identifies our owner (we belong to Christ!) and guarantees our arrival in heaven. The Holy Spirit is also God's guarantee, the "down payment" of our inheritance. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"To Him Who is Able to Keep You From Stumbling" - Can We Be Sure of Heaven? Part 4

I tripped and fell a couple days ago while I was on my run. One minute I was going at my normal (i.e. slow) pace, and the next minute I was plunging downward into the gravel. I caught myself on my palms and my right knee. Beside a few scrapes on my hands and a bloody knee, I was none the worse for wear.

I don’t know what happened. I didn't trip over anything unless it was my own feet. And it’s not like it was an unfamiliar route. I figure in the last five years I've been around this track over 600 times. I just fell, kablooey.

And as I stood to my feet, wiped my hands on my running shorts, and surveyed the abrasion on my knee, a Scripture verse popped into my head. Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Lime Tree - Can You Be Sure of Heaven?, Part 3

I bought a little lime tree a few years ago. Fresh limes! Lime juice for fish, limeade, maybe even lime sorbet, I thought.

Anyhow, I planted, fertilized, and faithfully watered my little lime tree. Months passed. It wasn't growing, it wasn't green, it never got blossoms, let alone fruit. Finally it dawned on me that I was basically watering a stick. It was deader than Julius Caesar.

On the other hand, a few feet away I have a lemon tree. Over the last several years it has grown taller, greener, and right now it has dozens of lemons on it. I know it’s alive because of its growth, and most of all, its fruit. 

No one would think the lemons on my lemon tree were the source of its life. The lemons are the result of its life. Which is one of the key truths about spiritual life in Christ: Persevering in obedience and holiness is the fruit of saving faith. Without fruit, assurance of salvation is at least premature, and perhaps presumptuous. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Can You Be Sure of Heaven? Part 2 - Is There a Pulse?

Salvation isn't joining a club or signing up for a free newsletter. It’s not hedging your bets for eternity by praying a prayer or walking forward in a church service.

When the Bible speaks of salvation, it does so in paradigm-shifting and life-altering terms. Jesus described it as having “passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Salvation is nothing less than a rescue wherein God delivers us “from the dominion of darkness” and brings us into another kingdom – “the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13).  Those who are truly saved are new creations in Christ, and “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

But if salvation is new life in Christ, a new life in which the believer enjoys peace with God, forgiveness of sins, and assurance of heaven, how sure can we be that we have that life?

In my last post I suggested a diagram which describes people in four different “boxes,” based on two barriers – a salvation barrier (saved or not saved), and an “assurance” barrier – sure of heaven, or not sure. 

So my question for this post is, can we live in Box 4? Can we be sure of heaven?

The answer is yes. But assurance of salvation comes from 1) persevering in obedience and holiness, and 2) trusting in God’s promises to protect and keep us. Scriptural assurance is based on both human responsibility and divine sovereignty. In this post I want to focus on the human responsibility side of things.

Let me be clear: persevering in obedience and holiness does NOT mean that you earn salvation by any action or work on your part. The Bible is emphatic: For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:10). The truth is that all the works of salvation have all been performed by Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8, 9, emphasis added).

But being assured that you’re saved and put right with God does involve seeing “fruit” – evidence of this new life. Anyone can claim to be a Christian. But without a track record of obeying Christ's commands and progressing in a life of holiness, Scriptural assurance is not possible. The Apostle John put it this way: And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3, emphasis added). The truest measure of new life in Christ is not a "birth certificate" (a recorded decision) but a "pulse" - the steady, ongoing beat of following Christ.

Next time I want to talk more about this "pulse" of our new life in Christ.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Can You Be Sure of Heaven? Part 1

A lot of people assume that the only qualification for heaven is death. They suppose that they, like most everyone else, are good people, and of course good people go to heaven.

And yet, paradoxically, a lot of Christians seem not to be sure about their relationship to Christ. It’s tragic that some non-Christians are more confident that they’re right with God than Christians who sincerely believe in Jesus.

According to the Bible, the first and most important question is, Are you truly saved? Here’s a diagram that envisions the “salvation barrier.” This is the dividing line for all people on this planet. No one is on the line—you’re either on one side or the other. Either saved, forgiven of your sins, “born again,” on the way to heaven, or not saved, not forgiven, not born again, and ultimately bound for hell.

If heaven and hell are real places (the Bible says they are), then the most important issue we will ever face is our eternal destination. There’s a great little summary of what it means to become a Christian you can look at be clicking here. If you have doubts about your salvation, I hope you’ll check it out.

But this post and the ones that follow in this series are about being sure that you’re going to heaven. So I want to suggest a second diagram, what I’ll call the “assurance barrier.”

If you’re above this line, you’re confident that if you were to die today, all your sins are forgiven and you would go to heaven. And below the line, you’re not confident. Maybe you even worry and wonder whether your sins are forgiven, and whether, if you died today, you would go to heaven.

Now if you put these two diagrams together, you get four “boxes,” four types of people.

Box #1. Not saved, not confident. These are people who are definitely not saved, and (appropriately) have no assurance of salvation. Their only hope is Jesus, but they haven’t yet turned to Him.

Box #2. Not saved, but confident anyway. Here are people who don’t believe in Christ as their Savior, but still believe – falsely – that they will go to heaven. They have a tragically misguided sense of eternal security.

Box #3. Saved, but not confident.  Notice this group moves across the salvation barrier. They are truly saved, but they agonize that, though they love Jesus and accept Him, maybe He won’t accept them.
Box #4. Saved and confident. This last group are Christians, genuine born again believers, and they live with the certainty that God has forgiven them, is changing them, and will bring them to heaven when they die.

What group are you in? (And again, if you're in Box 1 or 2, please read this good summary of what it means to become a Christian...) The Lord wants His people to be confident in God's faithfulness to save them. Here's how the Apostle John put it: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13, my emphasis). 

In the next few posts, let's talk about how a person "may know that they have eternal life."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Bridge

Once upon a time there was a man out for a hike in the mountains. He walked through the forest, and kept climbing till finally he passed the timberline and crested out on top of a high, rocky plateau. He had a magnificent view—evergreen carpeted valleys below him, snow-crested peaks shimmering against a pale blue sky above him.

As he continued to walk, he came to a canyon. He looked over the edge and saw that it was so deep that the sunlight didn't reach the bottom. Hundreds of feet below there was a river, but it looked like a little silver thread.

He followed a path along the edge of the canyon for a while, until he came to a wooden bridge spanning the canyon. A dirt road meandered up from the forest to the bridge, and then continued on the other side.

The man wanted to cross over, but the bridge looked old and flimsy. It had no guard rails, and though it seemed well-made, some of the bottom boards were missing. He could look down into the canyon and see birds flying below him.

The man’s palms were sweating, just to think of setting foot on the bridge. Maybe it was sturdy enough to carry his weight, maybe not. Finally, heart hammering in his chest, he decided he would attempt to cross. He got down on his hands and knees, hoping that if he distributed his weight a little better, he’d have a better chance of making it.

So he crawled. It was just as well, because his arms and legs were shaking so badly, he probably couldn't have stood to walk anyway. Gingerly, afraid that any minute he might put his knee or hand through a rotten board and fall through, he inched his way across. Sweat poured off him and his shirt was soaked, even though it was a cool day. He could feel the bridge sway slightly with his weight, and when it did he would close his eyes, tense all his muscles and pray under his breath. “Oh, God, please help me…”

Finally he made it across. He collapsed, grateful for solid ground. After a minute he pulled himself to his feet, staggered over to a big rock and sat down. He was exhausted.

Then he heard a noise. Across the canyon where he had just been, winding up the road, came a truck carrying a load of lumber. It was traveling pretty fast for a dirt road. As it approached the canyon, he could see the driver, an older man, steering with one hand.

The driver never even paused when he got to the bridge. He floored it, spraying dust and gravel behind him, and roared across the bridge. He waved and winked at the hiker as he sped by.

The story of the bridge makes me think about being a Christian, and being sure of getting to heaven. Two questions come to mind:
  • If the bridge is our salvation, is it better to cross like the hiker, or like the man in the truck?
  • Did the manner of crossing the bridge affect how stable it was? out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13