What Is True Salvation?

I've grown up in a solidly Christian home, so I've been to my share of church camps and revival meetings. And it seems that every time there is a week than an evangelist speaks, there is a sermon that greatly trivializes salvation. The message will unfold something like this: "You do bad things, people who do bad things go to hell, pray to Jesus so you don't go to hell and go to heaven." Salvation is presented like a Get Out of Jail Free Card that we just walk up to Jesus and ask for and then walk away. This watered down salvation isn't life-changing, just a way to have a more pleasant afterlife.

The fact is that our main problem isn't hell, it's our missing fellowship (friendly relationship) with God. Our (lack of) fellowship with God is the main theme of the Bible. We read about Adam and Eve who walked with God in the cool of the day, but then sinned by eating the fruit. At that moment they lost fellowship with God because they became sinners. The main story throughout the Bible is God's restoration of fellowship with his fallen creation. Because we are descendants of Adam, sin has passed to us, and we are born sinners (Romans 5:12). The fact that we are sinners will send us to hell because the payment for sin is separation from God for eternity, not just in this life (Romans 6:23).

So, how do we as naturally sinful human beings gain fellowship with God? Four books in the New Testament, the Gospels, are filled with the story of how a perfect God became the only sinless descendant of Adam ever born, Jesus. Jesus did something that only sinners were supposed to do, die and be separated from God. As he was being crucified, he screamed, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?". Because He died as a sinner, his righteousness can be legally substituted for ours (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So how do we gain his righteousness? Ephesians 2:8-9 says that it is not based on anything that we do, the best we have to offer God is worth as much as dirty rags. The only way we can gain fellowship is by God's grace, if he chooses to give it to us. Ephesians 2:8 says that salvation is by grace through faith. If we cry out to God by faith (the absence of any of our own works) he promises to save us (Romans 10:13).

If and when God chooses to save us, two things happen. The first thing is that we are given a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). While we are still naturally sinners while living in these bodies, we have a new nature that wants to please God. The second thing that happens is that we are adopted by God (John 1:12, Galatians 4:5). Not only do we re-gain fellowship, we are given full rights as his children. When the Bible says we gain eternal life, we gain eternal fellowship with God starting when he adopts us.

Salvation is far more than missing hell. It is a new relationship with an Almighty God. It is not a gift that we play with for a few days and then forget about it. It is a gift that changes our life now, not just after we die. Salvation is not something we did once. It is something that continues to change us.


The Bride of Christ

Do we really understand what salvation is? Do we really get what being the bride of Christ really entails? Check out this post by Mike Donehey on Tenth Avenue North's blog.


The Problem With Church Camp

The house should be less crabby this week. My brother left this morning for church camp, a week of hanging out, high school flirting, and sports. I always went to church camp growing up. Once, twice, or three times a summer I left home for a long bus ride to a week that always featured an evangelist that preached a couple times a day. I, along with most of the other kids, always came back from camp all excited about the fun and preaching.

For those who do not know, church camp is intended to get the campers to make a "decision." A decision is when a camper decides to do something, i.e. respect one's parents more or read one's Bible faithfully. Kids are persuaded to make a decision by the evangelist. The evangelist usually will use sermons that don't use too much Bible, and will clinch this sermon by an emotional story that persuades the listeners to make said decision.

Anyway, I always came back on an emotional high, and this batch of kids is not likely to be any different. I'm sure there will be a testimony service at my church where everyone can share what decisions they made with the church. The problem makes itself known a couple weeks after camp when practically no kids are keeping said decisions and have resumed the lifestyle of the week before camp.


Why do camp revivals never last? Why do the results of revival meetings never last for more than a couple weeks?

Answer. Because most camps and revival meetings are built on emotion.

I don't want to say that camp and revival meetings have no spiritual benefit. They can, and do. But, for the most part camp preaching is fluff. I have heard messages that resulted in "revival." Almost everyone made a "decision." The next week I realized that what had "convicted" me wasn't the Bible at all. It was simply a story about the speaker's childhood. The only "conviction" I had felt was an emotional build-up because I was listening to a good public speaker. When the emotion wore off, so did my desire to do what I had decided to do.

The fact is that if we truly read our Bibles, we will realize that it doesn't say anything about decisions. True Christianity really isn't built on things we do, but a relationship with God. Whenever we try to manufacture a religion that uses emotion to get people do a bunch of external works without building it on a relationship with Christ, all we get is a religion that fails when the emotion wears off.

What is True Worship?

What's the point of worship? Read this post from The Village Church's Worship Blog.


This Is Your Life

This is not the warm-up round;
This is not a trial heat.
It can't be repeated when your time has gone.
This is not an infinite resource
Or the prelude to a starter course;
You don't send it back if it gets done wrong.

This is your life.

Every living soul completes
A finite number of heartbeats.
This is not the sum of what you're here for.
Every breath you take will be exhaled;
Every rising sun will fall.
The measure of it all is what you live for.

This is your life.


What Is The Word of God?

I just read a chapter again of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God again. Its an amazing book, I need to read the rest of it again. I reread chapter 6, which talks about the nature of the word (or voice) of God. I think that what Tozer says puts the entire KJV version debate in perspective. I can't put the entire chapter in one post, so I just posted a few paragraphs. The full text can be found at inspirationalmedia.com/Pursuit_of_God.pdf. Chapter 6 starts on page 29.

"An intelligent plain man, untaught in the truths of Christianity, coming upon this text, would likely conclude that John meant to teach that it is the nature of God to speak, to communicate His thoughts to others. And he would be right. A word is a medium by which thoughts are expressed, and the application of the term to the Eternal Son leads us to believe that self-expression is inherent in the Godhead, that God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. The whole Bible supports the idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice.
One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the Voice of God in His world. The briefest and only satisfying cosmogony is this: “He spake and it was done.” The why of natural law is the living Voice of God immanent in His creation. And this word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is not a written or printed word at all, but the expression of the will of God spoken into the structure of all things. This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The Voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, indeed the only force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken.
The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The Voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The life is in the speaking words. God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book."
"I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable
outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words."
The essence of the Word of God isn't found in one version today; it isn't what was written by the apostles. It is what God spoke and is speaking.


Don't Go To Your Church If.....

I found this on Tenth Avenue North's website.

"Don’t go to your church if one of these three things are present:"

Old Hymn, Ageless Words

This is a lot more than an old hymn. The words are amazing.

Man of Sorrows! What a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
"Full atonement!" can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
"It is finished!" was His cry;
Now in Heaven exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we'll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!


Patriotism In Church

With Memorial Day just behind us and Independence Day in a couple weeks, now is a very good time to write about the role of patriotism's place in corporate worship. I honestly don't know when it started, but Fundamentalist churches around the nation have started reserving a Sunday service to celebrate America. This can be done in different ways, from having prayer for America to singing songs and giving testimonies about America and patriotic people.

The logic behind these special Sundays ranges from ludicrous fact embellishing to some solid reasons. I've heard songs sung in church that claimed the American Revolution was a struggle of good versus evil; that the colonies were fighting for religious freedom. This is not true. The Pilgrims and many others may have come to the New World to find religious freedom, but the colonies rebelled 150 years later purely for economic and political reasons. Nothing to do with religious freedom. Read the Declaration of Independence. Nothing about religious freedom in there.

Many people claim that we should celebrate America in churches because the nation was founded by Christians on Christian principles. This has some credence to it. Many of the founding fathers were deeply religious men, but the fact that they used flowery religious language does not mean that they were truly born again. It was standard back then to be religious. Everyone was. It was the culture of the day. Of course they talked about God, it just came with living in the deeply religious time right after the Great Awakening.

The fact is that there is nothing in the Bible about celebrating one's nation in church. Read the book of Acts; then read the rest of the New Testament. Nothing about the nation in corporate worship. The only responsibilities of the Christian to his nation are to pray for its leaders, obey the laws, and pay the taxes (please note that the founding fathers failed on the last two). Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." The government has its own realm that it governs, and the church has its realm. Those two should stay separate.

There is one way to have a patriotic Sunday and stay within the principles the Bible lays out for worship. The goal of our existence and the goal of our worship is to glorify God. If at any time worship glorifies a man or country above God, it has become idol worship. We can thank God for we he has given us in our nation, as long as the focus stays on him.

I'm not against patriotism. I consider myself patriotic. I just don't think that someone has to be patriotic to be godly.


Random, Mindless Utterings

I don't know why, but God decided to give us the blog to allow our strange thoughts in the wee hours of the morning to seep into public. I'm too caffeinated to go to sleep (trips to McDonalds at one in the morning will do this), so I'm listening to music/trying to organize my iTunes.
Interesting things going on in my life, well not really, but who cares. I had an interview at Stanley Steamer on Wednesday. I don't know if I get the job or not, but if I do I'll be able to pull in $30,000 a year and work full time. This seriously tempts me to sit out of college for a semester or two, or possibly just stay at this job for a few years and take classes by correspondence from Bob Jones.
I really would like to be a pastor somewhere, to have a semi-big church, and a happy life. The thing is, I think all I really want is a successful career doing something, and that something could be making money at a Stanley Steamer in Saginaw, Michigan. But I really doubt that's what God wants for me to do. Sigh, I pray for wisdom.