The Other Side of the ‘Great Debate’

The Other Side of the ‘Great Debate’
Vol: 25 Issue: 31 Wednesday, August 31, 2016

If one sits down with a Christian Reconstructionist to discuss the major doctrines of the Church, including salvation, sin and the Deity of Christ, one discovers that the proponents of that doctrine are as sincere as you and I, and love the Lord as much as we do.

They are as well-versed in Scripture as you and I and are as confident of their understanding as we are. Moreover, and maybe most importantly, they are as sincere and unshakable in their beliefs as you and I.

Did you ever wonder whether or not the Rapture detractors might be right when they make their arguments against what they deride as the ‘Great Escape’?

I mean, when you sit down and try to explain to someone what the Rapture is all about, doesn’t it occasionally make you wince? Don’t you ever wonder whether or not the Rapture really WAS an invention of J.N. Darby in the early 1800’s as the preterists often argue?

And don’t you sometimes wonder, if the Rapture is such a key component of Bible doctrine, why there are so many mainstream Christian denominations that neither teach nor believe in it?

Dispensationalists make up but a tiny minority of the professing Church, while almost all mainstream Protestant and Catholic Churches ignore Bible prophecy as irrelevant.

Indeed, the world’s largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, denies any possibility of a Rapture at any time. Catholicism teaches that, even saved people still have unforgiven sins at the time of their deaths.

Purgatory, according to the Catholic encyclopedia, is a “place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions. “

Depending on one’s sins, one could spend hundreds, or even thousands of years, in Purgatory, unless some living person prays you out of there by obtaining from the Church something called a ‘Plenary Indulgence’.

A Catholic Rapture therefore stands in direct contradiction to the Vatican doctrine of Purgatory.

Christian Reconstructionism, which represents the majority of mainstrean theological thought, teaches that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled with the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

It teaches that Jesus will not return again until the Second Coming and His Second Coming will not occur until Christianity becomes the world’s dominant religion and the world itself is prepared by the Church to accept Him when He comes.

So, we return to the central question. Since they represent the majority of the professing Church, and are as studied, as certain and as sincere as you and I are, is it possible that maybe they are right, as well?

After all, each of us claims to serve the same Jesus and each of us uses the same Bible to gain our understanding of both Jesus and our faith. But we reach entirely different conclusions from our studies.

And things that are different are not the same.

When applied to a sinner seeking forgiveness for his sins and trusting in Jesus for salvation, sincerity is an essential element.

One cannot fool God. But sincerity is no substitute for scholarship, and one can be sincere and be sincerely wrong.

The doctrine of the Rapture, when expressed out loud and described to an unbeliever, sounds almost like a science-fiction story or a religious fable. Especially when one is articulating it to a skeptic.

Until one compares it to the more mainstream interpretations. They share a common denominator that, to a discerning Christian, leaves no doubt as to which view is in error.

Note that Catholics must finish paying for their sins in Purgatory before they can enter heaven. And whether or not they enter at all depends on their state of grace at the time of their death.

Whether or not they make it to Purgatory depends on their own works, and when they get out is conditional on their making their own payment for sin.

Note that Reconstructionism demands that man purify himself by his actions and conduct, thereby influencing the world for good until eventually, all men turn to Christ, at which time, the Lord will return.

In other words, Jesus can’t come back to the world until we human beings make it a fit place for Him to set Foot on. It is therefore not up to Him, but up to us.

Both views subtly deny His Deity, while elevating man to the place where he plays a role in his own salvation.

In this view, the forgiveness of Christ is not all-sufficient and His power is limited and conditional upon human behavior.

Jesus cannot keep you after salvation unless you are somehow able to keep from sinning from there on in. If you sin hard enough, you will sin yourself out of His Hands, in spite of His promise;

“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s Hand.” (John 10:28-29)

Man cannot help but want to play a role in his own salvation. It is a matter of pride. The very first time it rears its head in human history is in the Garden of Eden.

Compare the First Lie with the doctrine of conditional salvation:

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Starting back to front, is it possible for a fallible human being to know good from evil? We can know right from wrong, but good and evil are not actions, they are outcomes, and only God knows outcomes.

One can give a bum on the street some money for food. That is a good thing.

The bum spends the money on crack cocaine, and then kills an innocent person while under the influence. That’s an evil thing.

Both events sprang from your gift of money. Was giving the bum the money a good thing, or an evil thing? Right and wrong are obvious. Good and evil are the provinces of God.

But according to Reconstructionism, the world is too evil a place for the Lord to return to, and it is the role to the Church to make it ‘good’.

The next lie, in reverse order, is that ‘we shall be as gods’. James writes that

“There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy . . .” (James 4:12)

Salvation is the sole province of God.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Note there are two elements to this verse, ‘grace’ and ‘faith’. One of them is a ‘gift of God’. Which? Is it ‘grace’? Only if one redefines an action to become a thing. ‘Grace’ means ‘a gift’.

One cannot give grace AS a gift. It is not a thing, it is the extension OF a thing. Which brings us to the second element, the element of ‘faith’.

FAITH is the gift of God, not grace, which is the extension of the gift itself. That means that even that saving faith is not of ourselves, but is God’s gift to us.

Our role as an active participant in our salvation is therefore excluded. We are not ‘as gods’ — no matter how sincerely we want to believe otherwise.

The third lie, in reverse order, is that by straying away from the Word of God, ‘our eyes will be opened’ to truths that would have otherwise escaped us.

Note that when the serpent asked Eve to repeat God’s prohibition, she replied,

“of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Genesis 3:3)

God never told her not to ‘touch it’ — she added that part, which provided the serpent with all the leeway he needed to cast doubt on her understanding of the rest.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired TO MAKE ONE WISE, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat . . ” (Genesis 3:6)

Returning to the original question, is it possible that our understanding of eternal security is wrong and that the mainstream was right all along?

That there is no Rapture, that Bible prophecy was all fulfilled already, and that we are simply seeking some mythical “Great Escape?”

After all, they argue, why should one generation, out of all those who came before, be chosen as the generation that will never die? It is a compelling argument. Viewed that way, it doesn’t really seem fair. Who do we think we are?

The Rapture is as unearned and undeserved as our salvation, which we obtained through God’s extension of grace whereby He gifted us with saving faith. That saving faith is in the unearned remission of our sins which was obtained on our behalf on Calvary’s Cross.

We’ve explored the Scriptures that clearly promise a coming Rapture, and examined all the various views at one point or another. A pretribulation Rapture of the Church is in harmony with the Scriptures for the last days. Fairness, insofar as mankind views fairness, is irrelevant.

‘Fairness’ as we understand fairness, would be when each of us pays our own way. But all of us are saved on the understanding that Jesus was condemned ‘unfairly’ for sin and His payment was therefore acceptable payment for our own sins.

Faith in Christ means faith in Christ, not in men, or in our own actions, or in what we believe sounds fair.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on January 28, 2008

Featured Commentary: God Smacked ~Wendy Wippel

No Red Union Suits, Either

No Red Union Suits, Either
Vol: 25 Issue: 30 Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Heaven is a difficult concept to picture in our minds.  It is simply beyond our experiential capacity for us to step out of space and time and imagine eternity.  It is even more difficult to imagine eternity in a place where there is no sin, no conflict, no sickness, no death, not to mention a place of eternal joy that never grows old.

Eternity is a long time, but ‘eternity’ is ‘a long time’ the way a billion dollars is ‘a lot of money’.  It takes a carefully constructed word picture to bring it into focus.

I heard ‘eternity’ described this way, once, and it helped.  Suppose a seagull were to take a grain of sand from the East Coast and drop it off on the West Coast.  Every ten thousand years, our seagull would transport another grain of sand from the East Coast to the West Coast.

When every grain of sand on every beach on the entire East Coast has been transferred to the West Coast (one grain at a time, every thousand years), that would constitute the first ten seconds of eternity!

Mankind is created in God’s Image, according to Genesis 1:26, and after God’s likeness.  But it doesn’t necessarily follow that we look like God, or that God looks like us.

Jesus revealed,

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

God’s ‘image’ and His ‘likeness’ refer to His eternal nature, not His cosmetic appearance.

Monkeys look as much like men as any of the other lower order of animals.  They look enough like men to argue that, if man is in God’s image, then so are some species of monkeys.

Connecting the dots, then, Jesus tells us that God is a Spirit, and Genesis tells us that we were created in God’s Image and in His Likeness.

Scripture teaches that man was created with an eternal spiritual component.

A Spirit, in His Image, that is eternal in nature, in His Likeness.

That which is eternal is that which, by definition, cannot die, and cannot be killed.  But it can be destroyed.

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Note the subtle shift in Our Lord’s Words when He moves from the temporal to the eternal.  The body can die, the soul cannot be killed, but both can be ‘destroyed’ in hell.

There are those who teach that this means that hell isn’t a place of eternal torment, but rather a place where the condemned soul is annihilated.

The Bible speaks as much of hell as it does of Heaven; indeed, in His ministry, the Lord spoke MORE of hell than he did of heaven.  Scripture divides ‘hell’ — as we understand it — into two phases.

There is hell, and then, later on, the Lake of Fire.

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14)

It is the ‘Lake of Fire’ that some teach is the place of annihilation.  The Scriptures teach otherwise.

We are created with an eternal element, as we’ve already established.  That which is eternal cannot be killed, but it can be ‘destroyed’.  But ‘destruction’ means eternal separation from God, not annihilation.

Jesus explained in the story of Lazarus and the rich man;

“There WAS a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores. . . .”

Both of them died, the Lord explains, and each went to his place, Lazarus to Paradise, and the rich man to hell.

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:19-20-23)

At the time of the story, Jesus had not yet redeemed humanity, and the righteous dead went to Paradise, which, the Lord taught, was separated from hell by a great gulf or chasm;

“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:26)

At His Death, Jesus ‘descended into hell’ [which also included at that time, Paradise] in order to liberate the righteous dead and take them to heaven;

“Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:8-10)

Once the righteous dead were taken to heaven, hell was expanded to make room. Those in hell will be ‘cast into the Lake of Fire’ at the second death, the Scriptures say.

There are those who will point out that the word ‘hell’ (sheol) has two meanings; it means both ‘the grave’ and the place where departed spirits go.  So they argue that hell is not really a literal Bible teaching.

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” (2nd Thessalonians 1:8-9)

Note the phrase ‘everlasting destruction’ and reconcile that, if you can, with the idea of ‘annihilation’.  It takes some real imaginative interpretation to get there from here.

‘Everlasting destruction’ isn’t the same as ‘annihilation’ — which is instantaneous and permanent.  And things that are different are NOT the same.

Hell is a place of punishment that the Lord described THREE times, using exactly the same words;

“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44,46,48)

When the Lord chooses to repeat Himself, it is because He wants to make sure we get it right.

Jesus said the rich man was ‘in torments’, desiring that Lazarus,

“dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:24)

So, from our Lord’s Lips to our ears, we know it is a place of torment, involving ‘flames’ where ‘their worm dieth not’.  Jude 13 reveals it is a place of eternal darkness.

While those in heaven will meet and recognize their loved ones, those in hell will spend eternity like the unidentified rich man, nameless, alone and in utter darkness.

The story of the rich man reveals hell to be a place of consciousness, a place of eternal remorse, a place without hope, a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a place of eternal flame.

Jesus says of the hellbound sinner that it would be;

“better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

Jesus said of Judas that;

“woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)

Hell is worse than violent death and worse than having ever been born at all.  Jesus’ words make no sense if Judas were facing ‘annihilation’ in hell.  How could NOT existing (annihilation) be worse than never existing?

On the other hand, eternal torment would be MUCH worse than never having existed at all.  The difference is obvious without having to conduct any special Scriptural gymnastics to prove it.

And if the plain sense of Scripture makes perfect sense on its face, why seek a different sense?

Hell is given over to the Lake of Fire at the second death at the conclusion of the thousand year Millennial Kingdom Age.  The beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the Lake of Fire, where, Revelation 20:10 says that “they shall be “tormented day and night for ever and ever’ — not annihilated.

Eternal life and eternal death are two sides of the same coin in that they are BOTH eternal, since we are created in God’s Image, which is eternal Spirit.

It is often argued that, ‘a loving God wouldn’t send people to hell’ — and that argument sounds logical because it is true.  A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell — and He doesn’t.

A loving God would provide an escape from eternal condemnation, which is different than expecting Him to change the nature of the punishment.

Hell was created as a prison and place of punishment for the rebellious angels.  When man joined in the rebellion, he condemned himself to share their prison.

But,

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Heaven doesn’t require cream cheese to make it heaven, and there are no red union suits in hell.  Both are real and both are eternal because we are eternal and, as eternal beings, we have to continue our existence somewhere.

God prepared a place for those who love Him and who want to spend eternity with Him.  And He created a place for those who reject Him and rebel against His rule.

And He gave us a free choice to decide which we would prefer.

We are the watchmen on the wall.  For those of us that know the truth, that is an awesome thing to contemplate.  It rekindles a sense of urgency for the lost.

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

The Omega Letter’s mission is to prepare the saved for the work of the ministry by comparing the Scriptures to the signs of the times and providing evidence of the lateness of the hour and the soon coming of the Lord.

Our secondary mission is to examine the deeper truths of Scripture so that we are better prepared to answer the skeptic’s questions and make clear the choices that are set before him.

It is incumbent upon us to be prepared,

“and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

May God continue to sustain and provide for us as we continue in our mission.

Until He comes.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on April 24, 2005

What is Truth?

What is Truth?
Vol: 25 Issue: 29 Monday, August 29, 2016

Pilate saith unto Him, “What is truth?. . . ” (John 18:38) This is the question that has bedeviled philosophers since the dawn of time. It is a subjective question; one person’s truth is another person’s untruth, yet truth itself is neither subjective nor objective; that is to say, truth is true whether anyone believes it or not.

If there is such a thing as truth then, we ought to be able to find it.  If truth cannot be known, then truth cannot exist.   Truth can sometimes be known by the power of logic and deductive reasoning, yet it can still be known absolutely.

Allow me to prove it to you.  I know, absolutely, and without being told by anybody else — that you are presently reading this particular line of text. That is a truth born out of logic. 

Then there are those truths that are not necessarily logical, but rather are reflections of reality.  

There is no way to logically ‘prove’ it, no benchmark against which to measure the truth of the statement, “I love my wife,” but it is true nonetheless.  And so truth is also a logical affirmation of reality.

But not all truth is absolute — as noted previously, one person’s truth is often another person’s untruth, relatively speaking. Certain truths are relative to one’s culture, preferences and history — but relative truths are no less true.

If I were to ask which side of the road you drive your car on,  most of you would say you drive on the right– and you’d be telling the truth.   But Anton in South Africa and Alf in Australia would say they drive their cars on the left– and they’d ALSO be telling the truth.

What is true in this case is what is true relative to individual reality.  So truth is not always objective — sometimes it is subjective, but still true, nevertheless.

So truth can be objective, subjective, logical and/or relative, and yet remain the truth. 

That means that there is no way to determine such a thing as absolute truth apart from our cultural and personal reality without acknowledging the existence of a truth greater than ourselves, one that transcends culture and experience and individual preference.

That is why the quest for truth ultimately leads to God.  Even the CERN Large Hadron Conductor experiment aimed at discovering the “Higgs boson” ultimately proves itself to be a search for God. 

Indeed, the “Higgs boson” is nicknamed “the God Particle” since it is believed to be the explanation for how “quarks” — the invisible, extra-dimensional  particles of which all matter is comprised,  acquire mass. 

We learn from the Higgs bosun experiments that quarks exist outside of time and space and have no mass, but that all mass that exists inside of time and space is made up of quarks.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth waswithout form, and void. . . ” (Genesis 1:1)

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:20)

“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him:” (Colossians 1:6)

Since quarks aren’t merely invisible but actually exist outside of the dimension of space and time, then the Bible’s account of creation is not just subjectively true, but also objectively true.

Assessment:

Generally speaking, when debating with a skeptic or an atheist, Christians tacitly agree to allow science to be the standard against which we judge truth.

So we prepare for our debates by searching out the best scientific evidence possible to support our positions, without realizing that what we are doing is making science the judge.  But if science is the judge of truth, we cannot win. 

Scientific ‘truth’ is ever-changing.  Appealing to science in order to validate Scripture is getting the equation exactly backwards.

The Scriptures say that “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). 

God says of Himself, “For I am the Lord, I change not. . .  (Malachi 3:6)

We’ve already discussed the unbeliever’s attempts to disprove the Bible using logic and reason, both of which are dependent upon the existence of God for their validity.  The next fallback position is that of science.  For the skeptic, however, this position suffers from the same fatal flaw.

Science depends on the laws of nature — if they were not uniform and unchanging, then there would be no way to experiement and study and arrive at truthful conclusions. If the force of gravity changed randomly from one day to the next, scientific measurement would be impossible.

The laws of nature were set in motion by God,  Who then promised that they will not pass away.

“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

The skeptic has to operate within the same understanding of natural uniformity as believers do — although he has no explanation for it. The unbeliever’s worldview dictates that nature and natural law evolved into what they are today through an ever-changing random series of processes.

So arguing against God from the perspective of science is like arguing against the existence of air while taking a deep breath.   It is a self-defeating argument.

The unbeliever has no way to account for the uniformity of nature, or the laws of science and logic apart from the God of the Bible. The Bible never contradicts itself, is unchanging and provides an explanation for all that is and all that is in doubt. 

The problem with evolution is that there is no way to measure or test the theory.  Any observable experiment demonstrates the 2nd law of Thermodynamics which postulates that all things, natural or created, eventually break down with time.  

Evolution argues that, by adding an unknowable and unverifiable periods of millions of years, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics reverses itself and uncreated things create themselves, and having thus accomplished this miracle of creation without intelligence, began to improve itself.

But the evolutionist cannot explain how it works, let alone why.   And to accept its claims requires a temporary suspension of the laws of both science and mathematics.

In 1932 when my mother-in-law was 10 years old, the earth’s population stood at 2 billion people.  In 2012, when she turns 90, the earth’s population is expected to top 7 billion.  From 2 billion to 7 billion in a single lifetime!

Now, to the Big Question. What if the earth’s population had reached 2 billion a thousand years ago?  What would the population be today?  Eight hundred billion?  A trillion? 

Now, add a million years, like the evolutionists do, and what you’d end up with isn’t science, but foolishness. We wouldn’t have room for anything except cemetaries, and we’d be re-using them by now.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools . . .Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; (Romans 1:22,25,28)

The skeptic or the atheist who wants to debate the Bible isn’t interested in learning the truth, but seeking justification for perpetuating his own delusion.

Reason and logic cannot exist without God.  The laws of science and nature cannot exist without God.  And if either could exist apart from God, we would have no way to explain them, let alone understand them.

Don’t let the enemy use clever debating tricks to steal away your assurance.  The foundational question that logic, reason and science all fail to address in their various alternative scenarios is the question of “why”? 

Why are we here?  What IS the meaning of life?   Science doesn’t know — it has no answers, just more questions.  Logic and reason cannot provide an explanation. 

No humanistic religion or philosophy can adequately explain the purpose for your existence — but the Bible can.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Because that IS why we are here. To trust the Lord.  To learn to lean on Him.  To learn to allow Him to direct our lives.  And to spread the good news that the Bible is true,  our salvation has been assured and that our Savior is coming back for us.

All the skeptics and the atheists and the scientists know is what.  We know why.  We know how.  Most importantly of all, we know Who.  

And as we witness the increasing signs of His soon Return, we also have a pretty good idea ofwhen.

Soon.  Very soon.  Maranatha!

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on March 5, 2010

Featured Commentary: Primeval Evil ~ Pete Garcia

Spiritual Schizophrenia

Spiritual Schizophrenia
Vol: 25 Issue: 27 Saturday, August 27, 2016

Most people, when they think of schizophrenia, associate it with a mental condition called Multiple Personality Disorder.  In reality, schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple personalities. 

The dictionary provides two definitions for schizophrenia.  The first is that of a severe mental disorder technically known as dementia praecox.  Dementia praecox is the severest condition, where the victim becomes delusional; hallucinations, voices, that kind of thing.

The second definition is a mental state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.   That’s the working definition I had in mind when I titled today’s briefing “Spiritual Schizophrenia.” 

Every Christian understands what I mean by ‘spiritual schizophrenia’ by experience. 

There is a TV commercial running currently for an allergy medicine in which the main character, an allergy sufferer trying to decide which allergy medicine to take, talks with two tiny representations of himself, one on his left hand, the other on his right.  

The one on the left side of the screen is the competitor, the one on the right is the Their Brand.  When Their Brand’s little guy announces that they last twelve hours and the competitor only six, the little guy on the left stamps his foot angrily and disappears in a puff of smoke.

That is Madison Avenue playing off the instinctive and experiential acknowledgement of the twin natures of man.   They don’t need to explain any of it — the symbolism is instantly recognizable to any culture.

In the old cartoons, it was a little winged angel with a halo on the right hand and a little red devil on the left, each whispering contradictory messages into the main character’s head. 

It is so universally-recognized as a symbol of the spiritual schizophrenia that afflicts us all that little kids watching cartoons grasp the concept instantly.   They’ve experienced the two natures long before anybody told them about it.

But experiencing it without being able to account for it is much like suffering undiagnosed schizophrenia.  It brings much sorrow and discouragement until you know what it is and how to treat it. 

Christians who fail to understand how spiritual schizophrenia afflicts them suffer the most discouragement. 

Here you are, rejoicing in your newfound relationship with Christ.  You have turned your back on the world, the flesh and the enemy.  You are walking on air.

Jesus has taken possession of your life and opened the door to a fresh, new existence.  You are cleaner than you’ve ever felt.  The old man is crucified with Christ, the old way of sin is gone forever.  The pathway to God seems a perfect pathway to peace.

Your desire for that ‘besetting’ sin, that one habit you never seemed to be able to kick, seemingly falls away by itself.

Then, BANG! The old forces of sin come back as strong, if not stronger than before.  That besetting sin, once merely a habit, becomes almost a necessity of existence.

Your spiritual tendencies are suddenly paralyzed. You want to move in the direction of the Spirit, but you are overwhelmed by the needs of the flesh. 

You are at first amazed at the power of the flesh, then distressed by your spiritual weakness, and finally discouraged and wondering if you were ever really saved in the first place.

This is where, for many Christians, there is a departure into that half-and-half existence, concluding that having been tempted and fallen, they are back in bondage to sin. 

They no longer have any confidence in themselves or hope of winning anyone else to Christ.

Some conclude that they must not have been saved in the first place, wondering if there really even is such a thing as conversion. 

Their “brethren” reach the same conclusion, teaching that salvation without growth and change is faux salvation — they couldn’t have been saved in the first place.   

The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith.  But faith in what?  Faith that Jesus existed?  Faith that Jesus died?  Faith that Jesus rose again? 

How does faith that Jesus did all that translate into saving faith?  The answer might surprise you.  It can’t. Knowing the Gospel story doesn’t impart salvation.  The Apostle James writes:

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)

Believing that Jesus died and rose again — by itself — is simply an acknowledgment of fact.  Satan knows that Jesus died and he certainly knows that Jesus rose again.  And he just as certainly isn’t saved by that knowledge.

Neither is anybody else.

Assessment:

I knew ALL that when I was a kid growing up in Catholic school. I had Catholic cathechism class every single school day.   I knew a ton about Jesus and the Cross and the Apostles and the Gospels.   

But I wasn’t saved.  And I already had lots of experience with spiritual schizophrenia — long before I came to Christ. 

Once I knew the difference between right and wrong and discovered that no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t keep myself out of trouble, that cartoon devil kept kicking the angel right off my other shoulder.

Saving faith isn’t faith that Jesus rose again, saving faith is found in knowing why

Jesus was the only One qualified to pay the penalty for my sin.  He paid my penalty at the Cross.  His resurrection is proof that the payment was all-sufficient and my faith, and my salvation, rests in that truth.

Spiritual schizophrenia is not just part of the human condition; it is a bedrock doctrine of Christianity.  The Book of Romans has long been recognized as the blueprint for salvation; most missionary tracts contain all or some of “Romans Road.”

The message of the Book of Romans is salvation, what it means, and how it works in the Christian experience.  In Chapter Seven, Paul outlines the doctrine that both diagnoses and treats spiritual schizophrenia.

Paul begins by explaining the Law of Moses as understood by the Jewish authorities of the time.

“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?”  

An observant Jew had to keep the Ten Commandments — plus some 615 other rabbinical commandments derived from the Torah by the sages and religious authorities.

“For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.”

“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law by the Body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”

We are dead to the Law by the Body of Christ.   That explains how.  I want you to see why. “That we should bring forth fruit unto God.”  

Recall those unfortunates discussed above who, having been tempted and fallen, have no confidence in their own salvation.  They question whether they were ever really saved themselves — and they certainly have no testimony to share with others.  No fruit unto God.

That is why we are dead to the Law.  Because of our dual nature.  Otherwise, salvation would be impossible, as Paul testifies:

“For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.”

 “But now we are delivered from the law, being dead to that in which we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”

‘The work of The Law was to bring fruit unto death.’ Is that right? 

“What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, you shall not covet.”

Nobody ever kept the whole Law.  The purpose of the Law was to demonstrate the need for a Savior and only He that was without sin could deliver them from that bondage.

What caused the Fall of Adam was the Law.  Adam had but one law to obey. It was too much for him.  Sin operates on the Principle of the Forbidden Fruit.

“For I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”

Something isn’t sin until it is forbidden. But once it is forbidden, the flesh can’t keep away from it.  That is the essence of the sin nature.  

Babies can’t grasp sin, so they are “alive” spiritually.  They don’t need to be ‘born again’.   Babies who die don’t go to hell, they are innocent of personal sin.

 “And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”  

But when the “commandment comes” (they understand right from wrong) the Principle of the Forbidden Fruit kicks in, sin revives and they die spiritually.

There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul was both saved and Personally indwelt by the Holy Spirit.   But Paul also suffers from spiritual schizophrenia. 

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

Sounds a lot like the guy who, having once been enlightened and had tasted the gifts of the Spirit, was tempted, fell, got up, fell again, and finally concluded that he couldn’t perform as a Christian.  

“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”

If we were stop right here, what we would have is Paul confessing that he is discouraged by his sinfulness and looked forward to a pretty fruitless Christian testimony, if he were really saved at all.  

Here we have the diagnosis of spiritual schizophrenia laid out in plain and simple terms.

“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Paul’s diagnosis is followed up with the lament of the defeated and discouraged Christian still struggling to come to grips with his disorder:

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

But then Dr. Paul outlines the treatment.  It isn’t a cure — spiritual schizophrenia is a life-long incurable condition.  But there is good news. 

Properly understood, it can be treated and its sufferers can enjoy a full and fruitful life in Christ.  

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Is Paul saying that from now on, he can sin all he wants to and just serve the law of God in his mind?  No.

And neither am I.  Recognition of a condition is not justification for not treating it.  It is merely recognition that it exists.   

But since it exists, and since it is an incurable condition in this life, saved, Blood-bought believing Christians do sin after salvation.  

Some sinners seem to sin more than others, but if there is a line drawn in the sand somewhere that Christians cannot cross, the Bible doesn’t reveal where it is.  

The Bible says only that all sin is equal in God’s eyes and that all of our best efforts at good works are as ‘filthy rags’ before the Lord.

Our spiritual schizophrenia is well-known to God.   That is why our justification had to be complete — we are as incapable of maintaining it as we were of obtaining it in the first place.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)

Because all our good works are as filthy rags before the Lord, there is only one way we can bear fruit unto the Spirit.  A full understanding of our condition demands a total reliance on faith that by His blood we are justified forever.

Our condition is not Life-threatening and we needn’t be ashamed of being in treatment. It  is a lifelong condition we were ALL born with.  

You aren’t unique.  And you aren’t hopeless.  But you are desperately needed on the battlefield.  You don’t need to go find it.  Just get up and stop nursing your wounds. The battle will find you.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

That is — by itself — a testimony worth sharing.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on May 22, 2010

The Burden

The Burden
Vol: 25 Issue: 26 Friday, August 26, 2016

I recall one of the lighter moments at the Branson gathering of 2006, when my wife Gayle turned to Frank and Connie Spaniak’s daughter and said, “I’m having such a good time! I was afraid they’d be a bunch of holy rollers, didn’t you?”

The look on Sandy’s face was priceless, since she no doubt expected Gayle and I to be the holiest rollers at the party.

Before I go on, lest I’ve offended anybody, I am not exactly sure what a ‘holy roller’ is — it’s just a phrase that rolls easily off the tongue.

My own definition would be somebody so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good, so fearful of loving the things of this world that they aren’t able to enjoy them, or someone so caught up in the things of the Spirit that any spirit will do, as long as its a spiritual experience.

It’s kinda vague, I know.  But its not us.  We enjoy the life God has given us.

We understand that it is no longer exclusively ours, but all work and no play is not God’s recipe for leading a Spirit-filled life.  The Branson meeting was a ton of fun, and I didn’t feel guilty about it for a second.

“There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the Hand of God.” (Ecclesiates 2:24)

“And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.” (Eccelesiates 3:13)

“Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.” (Eccelesiates 5:18)

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” (1st Timothy 6:17)

Paul doesn’t say being rich is evil, but rather that trusting in riches is evil.  He says trust in the living God, Who richly gives us ALL THINGS TO ENJOY.

Even combat Marines get relieved.  A combat Marine is a deadly serious killing machine, totally dedicated to his mission.  But that doesn’t stop him from having fun where he can.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than watching the young Marines fresh from Iraq, ‘unwinding’ on the beach at my adopted home in Atlantic Beach, NC.

They are still combat Marines, ready, willing and able to do their duty when called.  Being a Marine means training, more training, and training some more.  It means being prepared to fight or die in the service of the country.

You can spot a Marine by his demeanor, his posture, his cockiness and his haircut.  You don’t need to see him kill somebody to know he is a Marine.

But Marines go bowling, go fishing, watch movies, take their families on picnics, without leaving the nation’s service while they do so.  They play hard and they enjoy the life God has given them, knowing they may be called on at any time to give it back to Him.

If ever there were a model for loving life without loving it too much, it was Jesus.  He knew what He was to face on our behalf.  He loved life, but He loved God more.  When His time approached, He prayed;

“And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)

Jesus laughed.  He enjoyed company.  He loved to answer questions.  He went to parties.  He lamented of His moribund generation;

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. [But] whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.”

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a Man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. . . .” (Matthew 11:15-19)

Jesus enjoyed His life, He didn’t shrink from enjoyment out of fear He would enjoy it too much.  Instead, He promised us;

“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Assessment:

I’ve never been one to take myself too seriously.  I am just the donkey upon which the Message is riding.  My job is to heed my Rider and take the Message where I am directed to carry it.  It is not MY message.

The rider doesn’t belong to the donkey — it’s the other way around.  When the Lone Ranger rode up to save the day, nobody shouted, “Hey, there’s Silver!”

Nobody expected to see Silver outdraw the bad guy.  That was the Lone Ranger’s job.  Silver’s job was to get him there.

Being a good Christian is not as hard as some folks make it out to be.  The world has its image of what a ‘good’ Christian is.

But they think it is Silver, and not the Lone Ranger, that is supposed to whip the bad guys.  And when Silver turns out to be a horse, they blame the Lone Ranger.  Some Christians do the same thing.

If you’ll permit me one more analogy, consider the spiritual battlefield upon which we do combat with the enemy.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Our battle is not with flesh and blood — Jesus has already won that battle for us.  It is a spiritual battle against the powers of darkness and against “spiritual wickedness in high places”.

The epitome of spiritual wickedness is to reject the offer of pardon Jesus purchased with His Blood on our behalf.  It means choosing the darkness and rejecting the light for eternity.

It is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness, since we are called to Christ by the Holy Spirit.  To reject that call is spiritual blasphemy.

“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” (Mark 3:29)

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist . . .” (1st John 4:3)

We tend to judge ourselves as if we were the Lone Ranger instead of Silver. It isn’t up to us to decide where we will carry our Rider.  It is up us to be sensitive to His Touch and to go where He leads.  His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

How can that be if every waking moment of our life since meeting Him is one of agonizing self-reflection, despair at our own inadequacies, and fear we aren’t up to the tasks before us?  Such a yoke seems exceedingly difficult, and such a burden seems too heavy to bear.

Our battle is against sin.  Sin is sin, whether it is our own, or the sin that blinds sinners to the call of the Savior.  The battle is not bloodless — some of us, from time to time, can fall wounded on the field.

When a Christian is wounded in battle, as often as not, his fellow Christians will note his fall, and instead of treating his wounds, will just bayonet him as a ‘lost cause’.

But sin is not fun.  It is painful — particularly for a Christian.  Neither is having fun a sin.  Putting fun ahead of duty is sin.

James writes,

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

Therefore, being a Christian doesn’t mean the end of fun.  Who wants to hang out with a bunch of holy rollers with long faces too preoccupied with heaven to be any fun on earth?

That is not to say that one bears no responsibility for living a right life.  When the Lone Ranger disguised himself as the old prospector, he had to leave Silver behind.

If Silver was around, people knew the Lone Ranger was close by.  We should be as clearly identifiable with our Rider as Silver was with the Lone Ranger.

That is our responsibility and our goal.  But that still doesn’t make US the Lone Ranger.

Just the horse He rode in on.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on June 23, 2006

Featured Commentary: New Turkey-New Friends ~ Alf Cengia

When the Future Was Yesterday . . .

When the Future Was Yesterday . . .
Vol: 25 Issue: 25 Thursday, August 25, 2016

”Future Shock” is the name of a book written by sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970, at just about the same time that Hal Lindsey’s ”Late Great Planet Earth” was hitting the New York Times bestseller list.

Toffler’s book was made into a movie narrated by Orson Welles in 1972.  Coincidentally, Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” was also made into a movie, also narrated by Orson Welles, in 1979.

Toffler’s book addressed the speed with which technology was changing, back in the age of microwave ovens and beta VCRs.  

He defined the social response to the shattering speed of 1970’s technological and social advancement this way:

“Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”

Toffler explains, “Man has a limited biological capacity for change.  When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock.”

As already noted, Toffler’s book was published the same year as Hal Lindsey’s “Late, Great Planet Earth“.  Toffler’s book explained future shock as a social symptom.  Hal’s book explained what future shock was a symptom OF.

The prevailing feeling of impending doom that existed in the early 1970s was real enough that both books were instant runaway best-sellers.  In those days, that sense of ‘something’ was vague and undefined, but it was there.

Toffler tried to define it, Lindsey tried to explain it, movie franchises like ‘The Omen’ and ‘Mad Max’ tried to capitalize on it, but one thing is certain:

Whatever ‘it’ is, ‘it’ made it’s presence known with enough impact to make “The Late, Great Planet Earth” the best-selling Christian-themed book in history (excluding the Bible), it embraced Toffler’s term, ‘future shock’ so completely it is now part of our vocabulary, and made ‘The Omen’ and ‘Mad Max’ franchises among the most successful of their time.

There was a sudden awakening to the fact the Bible gave certain signs for the last days; discernible, chartable, undeniable and precise signs.

The 1967 Six Days War awakened the world to Israel’s existence and thrust her onto the world’s stage. Jerusalem, a city which most people thought of more in mystical than bricks-and-mortar terms, was suddenly the most important city on earth.

Although Bible prophecy was seldom discussed among Christians, suddenly, people started to connect some of the dots. Some ran to guys like Toffler for answers.  Others ‘whistled past the graveyard’, by turning their fears into entertainment.

When Hal Lindsey connected the dots for the secular world through Scripture, millions turned to the Bible for the answers, instead.

Assessment:

Future Shock was published forty-four years ago.  If the pace of change was shocking back then, consider what it means today.  An entire generation has grown up in a world where everything they learned yesterday is obsolete information tomorrow.

If you were born in 1970 and went to college and majored in geography, for example, when you graduated at 22 in 1992, everything you spent the last four years learning was wrong.

There was no Soviet Union, and there were about forty extra countries that didn’t used to be there.

Technology changes so fast last year’s TV is as obsolete as last year’s computer.  Last year’s car gave GPS-guided verbal directions to any destination on the globe – this year’s car can parallel park itself. 

As all this takes place, that sense of an impending ‘something’ continues to build, as we look for ways to explain it.  It sits somewhere at the back of the consciousness; — like wondering whether or not you turned off the iron before leaving for church.

Consequently, there has been an explosion in interest in things spiritual, extra-terrestrial, occultic, and scientific as people look for an explanation for what amounts to a global ‘nagging’ feeling.

Daniel said all this would take place in the midst of an explosion of knowledge and a sense of disorientation (future shock?), writing;

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4)

At about the same time that Alvin Toffler wrote of the ‘to and fro’ nature of exploding knowledge and gave us the term, ‘future shock’, Christians like Hal Lindsey, Dwight Pentecost and others were taking note of the fact that the words of Daniel were no longer “sealed”.

As Israel took her place among the nations, the Arab-Israeli conflict took global center stage, and Daniel’s ten toes began to wiggle as old Europe began to pull itself together, Daniel and Revelation became less about symbols and more about specific details. 

Until this generation, symbols were satisfactory because there was no literal framework in which to put them. Until the restoration of Israel, everything about Bible prophecy for the last days was symbolic. 

With Israel’s restoration, symbols revealed themselves as facts, the heads, horns and beasts became identifiable nations, leaders and systems and the words of the Prophets morphed from ancient prose to future history to future shock as the world slowly recognizes that the clock is winding down.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: (Romans 1:28-31)

The symbols are no longer symbolic, they are literal.  Bible prophecy is only as futuristic as tomorrow’s newspapers.  The Second Coming of Christ is much less a joke and much more a cause for sober reflection than at any time since the first century. 

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:38)

Wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, false Christs, solar anomalies, signs in the cosmos, global fear and confusion at what appears to be coming upon the earth . . . it’s ALL part of our present existence.  

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till ALL be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:32)

This generation.  That’s us.  Tell your friends.

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on June 24, 2011

Featured Commentary: The New Normal ~J.L. Robb

Withered on the Vine

Withered on the Vine
Vol: 25 Issue: 24 Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When we were in Israel, we toured Israel’s border with Syria near the Golan Heights.  Going up from the floor of the Galilee one can actually note the changes in elevation by the different crops planted at the various levels.

Thanks to Israel’s various elevations, one can experience almost every climate variation in the world, with everything from desert to tropical to temperate climates being within an hour’s drive of Jerusalem.

Everything grows in Israel, from tropical date palms to northern apples.  But Israel is especially well-suited for olives, grapes and figs.  The Festival of the First Fruits (Shavuot) is a celebration of the harvest.

Although everything grows there, the offerings of the first fruits (bikkurim) brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on Shavuot were brought only from seven “species” of agricultural bounty.

The seven species of agricultural produce that symbolize the fertility of Israel celebrated at Shavuot are wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey (from dates).

Israel is often represented metaphorically in one of the seven species, most often as God’s ‘fig tree’ or with God as the husbandman and Israel as a vine or a vineyard.

“For a nation is come up upon My land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.  He hath laidMy vine waste, and barked My fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.  Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the Husband of her youth.”  (Joel 1:6-8)

“Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.” (Psalms 80:8)

The vine is a perfect metaphor in the sense that a vineyard requires constant care or the fruit will quickly degenerate.  After the rains, the round must be plowed and cleared of weeds.

In the early spring the plants must be pruned by cutting off dead and fruitless branches.  The fruit itself must be protected from the foxes and the birds.  After the harvest, the gleanings are left for the poor to gather.

In the New Testament, the metaphor of the vine and the branches is extended to include the Church, symbolizing its relationship both to Christ and to Israel.

“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Assessment:

One of the passages offered recently as an objection to the doctrine of eternal security concerns what Jesus taught His disciples in the Upper Room shortly before His Crucifixion.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman.”  (John 15:1)

Jesus was born a Jew, lived a Jew and was crucified as King of the Jews. He is the True Vine.  The Church is the fruit of that Vine, dependent on God the way a vineyard requires constant care if it is to continue to bear fruit.

How does a Christian bear ‘fruit’? The purpose for a Christian’s life is summed up by the Great Commission.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)

Other than that, the Bible says that all our good works are as filthy rags before the Lord.  We tend to think we know the Mind of God but He says that we are totally clueless apart from that revealed to us.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)

According to the Bible, we are so limited in our understanding that we don’t even really know how to pray.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

But here’s what we do know how to do in order to bear fruit acceptable unto God.  Live the Great Commission.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)

Continuing the theme of the vineyard and its need for constant tending, Jesus told His Disciples;

“Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2)

This is where the doctrine of eternal security comes into question.  Jesus says a branch in Him that does not bear fruit “will be taken away” by the husbandman.  Does this mean that a saved Christian that does not bear fruit will lose his salvation?

That doesn’t line up with the Scriptures that say salvation is by grace through faith and not of works — ‘lest any man should boast’.

So what does it mean when a Christian ‘withers on the vine?’  John does write in his first epistle of a ‘sin unto death’.

“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16)

“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” (15:3-5)

Does this mean that once we are saved by grace, we maintain our salvation by our works?

The statement that ‘without Him we can do nothing’ is merely a restatement of the obvious. It means that the closer you are to Jesus, the more productive a branch you will be and the more fruit you will bear.

It is the Vine that bears the grapes, not the other way around.  One is not saved by bearing fruit.  One bears fruit because one is saved.

“If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

This is the verse that seems to raise the most difficulty.  At first blush, it seems to suggest that if a man abides not in Christ, he loses his salvation and is cast into hell.  But that’s not what it says.

Remember that Jesus is speaking metaphorically about vineyards and branches in the physical sense.  A branch withers and dies, men gather them together and dispose of them.

Physically, a person withers and dies, his body is gathered and disposed of by burial. When a Christian is fruitless in life, oftentimes the Lord uses his physical death to plant new seeds.

When Anaias and Sapphira lied to Peter (and by extension, to the Holy Ghost), they fell down dead at Peter’s feet.  They sold their land to help finance the Great Commission — to bear fruit for the Kingdom.  Then they tainted themselves and their offering.

They didn’t lose their salvation, but they had rendered themselves useless as branches on the vine.

Since the only point to a Christian’s earthly life is to bear fruit, Anaias and Sapphira had more to offer the Church in terms of edification by falling over dead than they did in terms of helping to spread the Gospel.

“And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” (Acts 5:14)

Everything we know about the Church, its purpose and its goal brings us to the same ultimate point.  Bearing fruit unto God.  The Church bears fruit unto God by saving the lost from hell by sharing the Gospel.

The individual doesn’t bring glory to God by his own good works.  A person’s good works bring glory unto the person doing the good works.

People didn’t go to a Billy Graham Crusade to hear the Word of God.  They went there because Billy Graham was preaching it.

When a Billy Graham Crusade resulted in a thousand professions for Christ, people didn’t say, “Wow! Look at God go!”

They said, “Wow!  Can Billy Graham ever preach!”

The Lord used Billy Graham in an amazing, powerful way.  But in this life at least,  most of the glory is reserved for Billy Graham.

It is no big deal for a professional baseball player to hit a home run off a 12 year-old kid.   But it is a very big deal for a 12 year-old kid to hit a home run pitched by a professional baseball player.

The Apostle Paul recounted the time he went to the Lord Jesus to ask Him to remove what he called a thorn in his flesh, a “messenger of Satan, sent to buffet me.”  Whatever that thorn was, Paul felt it interfered with his ability to minister effectively.

“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” (John 15:11)

Is this an admonition to keep the Ten Commandments in order to maintain one’s salvation?  Read it all — in context.

“That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

“These things I command you, that ye love one another.” (John 15:17)

A person is saved, first and foremost, by grace.  That is to say that God in His grace made a way for sinners to be reconciled to Him despite the fact that they are sinners by nature.

A person is saved by faith in God’s acceptance of the sacrificial Blood shed at the Cross and only that sacrifice is all sufficient.  That faith is ‘made perfect’ when it is realized at the Bema Seat.

Salvation cannot be a combination of grace and works because they are mutually exclusive.  If it is one, it cannot be the other.  And since I know my works as well as God does, my only hope lies with grace alone.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, thenChrist is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on June 15, 2010