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Assurance of Salvation

Salvation is God’s gracious deliverance of a sinner from the power and penalty of sin. God saves when one turns from sin and every effort to save oneself and relies on and surrenders to Christ alone for salvation. You may wonder if you can lose such salvation; can you? Maybe you feel like you are not saved—how can you know if Christ has saved you? Is it important? Should you know?

Eternal Security and Assurance of Salvation

There is a difference between these two doctrines and that difference depends on the standpoint salvation is viewed from.

Can you lose your salvation? The answer to that question cannot be answered from your standpoint or perspective. God is the one who saves through Jesus Christ; your salvation depends on and rests with Christ (John 6:39; 10:27-30; Jude 1). From God’s point of view, then, your salvation can never be lost because your salvation does not depend on you but Christ! The fact of your deliverance from sin’s power and penalty rests with God.

How know if God has saved you? This depends on your standpoint or perspective—assurance of salvation means you are certain you possess eternal life in Christ. Do you know if you are saved from sin? Can you know that you have eternal life?

Can I Know for Certain that I have Eternal Life?

Yes, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can know for certain that you have eternal life—you can be assured of salvation:

Rom 8:38-39 “I am convinced that neither death, nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God”

2 Tim 1:12 “I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day”

1 John 2:3 “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments”

1 John 5:13 “These things I have written unto you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life

Those who believe that no one can really know whether they have eternal life do so because they see salvation as dependent in some way on themselves. This is not what God says though (Eph 2:8-10; Titus 3:5).

Should I Know for Certain that I have Eternal Life?

Yes, you should! Why? The Bible tells you to seek and gain such assurance:

2 Cor 13:5 “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!”

2 Pet 1:10 “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you”

Heb 6:11-12 “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises”

1 John 5:13 (quoted above) John tells his readers that he wrote his epistle so they would know they have eternal life. This implies the necessity of reading the letter with a view to gaining such assurance

Assurance of salvation is the result of living a Christ-like life. If you just “assume” you’re saved, that can quickly and easily lead to complacency, sinful habits, disobedience, unfaithfulness, and self-deception. Knowing you are saved comes from living for Christ.

How Can I Gain this Certainty of Eternal Life?

In order to know where you’re headed on a journey, you need to be going in the right direction. You will know you’re going in the right direction when the “signs” and “landscape” around you matches the “map” you’re following.

A sure knowledge of salvation is the work of the Spirit living in your life (Rom 8:16; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). As you “walk in the Spirit” He gives you the conviction—the deep seated knowledge, confidence, assurance—that you are a believer.

Have a firm grasp of what the Bible teaches about salvation. The more you know about salvation, the stronger foundation you will possess for trusting Christ. The clearer vision you have that salvation is entirely by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone the better you will be able to see God’s work of salvation (note our doctrinal statement).

Examine your life (2 Pet 1:10-11), looking for evidences of salvation. God’s Word (the “map”) tells you what “signs” you should see in your life:

  • Faith in Christ (are you relying entirely on Christ, or yourself?), 2 Pet 1:1
  • A love for holiness, 2 Pet 1:4; 1 John 1:6-7
  • Growth in Christian virtue, 2 Pet 1:4-9
  • Obedience to Christ’s commands, 1 John 2:3
  • Love for other believers and a desire to worship with them, Heb 10:25; 1 John 2:19; 4:7-12

As you seek and see the evidences of Christ in your life, you can know that you have eternal life. If you truly are a Christian, the Spirit should control your life (Gal 5:16, 25) and as He does He assures you that you belong to Christ.

When people take salvation for granted they neglect continually examining their lives to make sure they are headed in the right direction. The result is people profess to be Christians (they have the form of godliness) but their lives are contrary to true Christianity (they deny its power).

What are the Results of Having a Certainty of Eternal Life?

A settled certainty that you posses eternal life will result in:

  • Commitment to the assembly of God’s people, Acts 2:42; Heb 10:25; 1 John 2:19
  • Living a life of confident victory and growing Christ-likeness, Rom 8:28-39
  • Growing knowledge of God’s Word and proportionate maturity in life, Eph 4:11-16; 1 Thess 3:2-3; Heb 5:14; 12:11; 1 Pet 2:2
  • A lifestyle characterized by holiness, 1 Pet 1:13-21
  • Loving other believers, 1 Pet 1:22-25
  • Diligently examining my lifestyle and character, 2 Pet 1:4-11
  • Willingness to suffer for Christ, 2 Tim 1:8-12
  • Contending for the faith, Jude 1-4

What about those times when you really question whether you’re saved or not? What are some causes of a lack of assurance?

  • A wrong understanding of the truths of the gospel
  • A weakness of faith that results from not cultivating it or the fruits of the Spirit
  • Excessive care for the things of this life, Phil 4:6-7
  • Prayerlessness, Heb 10:22
  • Not being careful or diligent, 2 Pet 1:10-11; Heb 6:11-12
  • Not responding to sin, 1 John 1:9
  • Disobedience to the commands of God, 1 John 2:3
  • Worldliness, 1 John 2:15-17

You can know that Christ has saved you and you should know. Don’t rely on writing down the date you prayed a prayer; don’t depend on what someone said you did. Truly knowing that you are saved comes from the Spirit. When you have a stronger knowledge of salvation from the Word (the sword of the Spirit) and live out your salvation, the Spirit gives that genuine, settled, confidence and assurance that you are a child of God.

 

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Wednesday evening, April 4, 2007

The King on a Colt–Luke 19:29-44

Every gospel tells of Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, showing its importance in the life and ministry of the Messiah. Sadly, our children often only view it as an opportunity to make palm branches out of construction paper in Sunday school. More sadly, “worshipers” of Jesus view it only as a religious ritual that they think makes them right with God.

What really happened and why did it? What was going on? What was the point? What did it mean?

When Jesus entered Jerusalem six days before he was crucified, he consciously knew he was the King of Israel and that Israel would reject him.

The reason each gospel writer includes this event from Jesus’ life is to show that Jesus of Nazareth was no ordinary man—he was the Messiah, the King of Israel. That is who was crucified six days later. Jesus of Nazareth Is the Messiah.

Luke’s account of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem gives three important aspects of Jesus the Messiah:

Jesus Perfectly Fulfilled Every Messianic Prophecy, 19:29-35

When Jesus came from Bethany he knew exactly who he was—he had no identity crisis. Earlier he said “the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

Because he knew who he was, he knew what Scripture had prophesied of him in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

To us this seems incredible—why the foal of a donkey??? If Jesus is really going to make a grand appearance as the King or Israel, get something more impressive! However, in that culture that is exactly what He did! It meant more to the crowd than a stretch limo would today. In OT times, the donkey was the mount of princes (cf. Judg 10:4; 12:14). Particularly with David and his sons, the donkey was the animal this royal family used (2 Sam 18:9; 13:29; 1 King 1:33).

Jesus’ particular, specific choice of this mount shows he understood who he was—the descendant of David. It also shows that Jesus the Messiah, the King of Israel, publicly makes his claim to the throne of David as he entered Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. He is the chosen Son of David to sit on David’s throne (1 King 1:33, 44), the one of whom the prophets had spoken (Zech 9:9)

Because Jesus was the Messiah, the King of Israel, he knew exactly what was required and expected of him and thus fulfilled every prophecy and expectation to a “T”—even what he rode on. Did others recognize this? This passage also shows that

Jesus Was Received As The Messiah, 19:36-40

Prior to this, some 483 years, Daniel the prophet gave the precise date on which the Messiah would come to Jerusalem (Dan 9:24-26). Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on this day was the fulfillment of that prediction. How people responded to Jesus’ entrance would indicate whether they recognized this also. What did they do? Did they recognize who this was?

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, the crowd spread their coats on the road, in essence rolling out the red carpet for him (Luke 19:36). Spreading coats on the road showed honor for royalty (cf. 2 Kings 9:13). In their culture, it was the custom to lay costly rugs before the feet of kings. Consider for example the vast difference between the entrance of the Queen of England and her butler! Everyone knows who the queen is by the procession, pomp, and entourage. What precedes the butler’s entrance? 🙂

The other gospel writers also tell that the crowd cut palm branches and laid them in front of Jesus. Palm branches signified victory and prosperity (cf. Lev 23:38-40), and for some time in Israel the palm branch was the national symbol of their hope and expectation that the Messiah would come and liberate them from foreign, idolatrous oppression.

Luke also tells us that the crowd praised God “for all the miracles they had seen” (19:37). One particular recent miracle of Jesus’ was raising Lazarus from the dead. John 12:17-18 tells us “so the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.”

The Jews in anticipation of the Messiah would often quote and sing Psalm 118. Note 118:25-26—“O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.”

Note from Luke 19:37-38 what the crowd said when Jesus entered Jerusalem as they spread their coats and palm branches before him—their words makes it clear that they recognized who Jesus was, the Messiah, the King of Israel. From all these actions it looks like the people understood what was going on!

Throughout Jesus’ career, the Pharisees opposed him. Thus, when they saw the crowd’s activity and Jesus’ apparent agreement with it, they did not like it (v. 39)! The Pharisees knew exactly what was going on with the garments, palm branches, and “Hosannas”—Jesus was clearly identifying himself as the Messiah, and Jesus’ did not disagree with their assessment one bit (19:40).

How did Jesus respond to all this?

Jesus as the Messiah Recognized the Crowd’s Insincerity, 19:41-44

Sadly, despite Jesus’ clear fulfillment of every prophecy that showed him to be the Messiah, and despite the words and actions of the crowd in apparent agreement with that, Jesus knew what was in their hearts (19:41-42). Jesus knew that in a matter of days the same crowd that praised him would condemn him. They rejected him as their Messiah because they refused to submit to who he was and what he taught.

Jesus foretold what their rejection of him would mean for them. In Luke 19:43 Jesus tells of Rome’s conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The soldiers surrounded the city and used embankments around the city to conquer it. In Luke 19:44 Jesus foretells how the Romans would demolish the city and kill its inhabitants. This judgment came because the nation failed to embrace Jesus as their Messiah.

What was so important and significant about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt? It proved publicly to everyone, beyond any doubt, who he was—the Messiah, the King of Israel, God incarnate.

What do you need to see from this passage? You need to believe that Jesus was not merely a “good man” or a “religious teacher”—he was God in the flesh. Your faith in him must be genuine—anyone can shout praise to God or make a profession of faith to Christ. You cannot expect any religious activity or ritual to make you right with God. Israel thought that way, and they received God’s judgment; don’t expect anything less!

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, April 1, 2007

The Biblical Response of a Believer to Sin

Does it matter whether or not someone who considers himself a believer deals with sin his life? What should we think of someone who considers himself to be a Christian but has a flippant attitude toward his own personal sin? How should believers respond to sin in their lives?

John wrote his first epistle with a definite purpose in view—“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). John wanted the believers he addressed to have a strong assurance of their salvation in Jesus Christ. This controlling purpose was motivated by false teaching that attacked the foundations of Christianity (cf. 2:26). Without fundamental Christian doctrine there can be no salvation and no assurance of eternal life. John deals with such false teaching throughout his letter so that the recipients would be able to experience the joys of salvation in Christ (1:4) and assurance of salvation (5:13).

The wrong doctrine and practices that the false teachers were promoting included:

  • Some form of perfectionism, 1:8, 10
  • Disobedience to the Word and a resultant sinful lifestyle, 2:4; 3:4-10
  • No love for brothers in Christ, 2:9, 11
  • Avoiding assembling with believers, 2:19
  • Believing that Jesus was not the Christ, 2:22-23
  • Believing that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh, 4:2

Our opinion regarding those who refuse to deal with sin in their lives should be formed and guided by Scripture—not their profession, personality, or our relationship with them. In this letter John addresses a situation among believers where there were those who refused to deal with sin in their lives. What does John say about this?

First, John says that the proof of salvation is a holy life“God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:5-7).

The only standard by which we are measured is our holy God. God’s nature and character are absolutely pure, completely free from any stain of sin—He is “Light.”

Those whose lives are characterized (defined) by sin are not truly saved—Christ has not cleansed their sin for they refuse to repent of it. Those who are truly God’s children will live lives that are characterized (defined) by their Father’s holiness—their lives are lived in the sphere of God’s holiness (2:3-4; 3:4-10).

Furthermore, true believers who live in this sphere will seek and enjoy fellowship with others in that same sphere. There is a like-mindedness among believers—they enjoy the things of the Lord, and want to be with others who desire the same.

False teachers would never agree that their lives were characterized by sinfulness—they would claim that they were living godly lives and were true believers, all the while practicing deeds of darkness. They sound mixed up and deceived!

Second, John says that to deny personal sin is to be without salvation“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1:8-10).

True believers don’t respond to their own sin by ignoring or denying it; instead, they confess it to God, admitting and forsaking it.

Those who ignore and deny sin do not have their sin cleansed; those who admit and forsake their sin are continually cleansed by Christ.

When someone denies their own sin they are lying to themselves and setting themselves up to fall into greater, more grievous sin that will in turn be denied, resulting in further self-deception. Those who claim to be Christians but whose lives bear no resemblance to Christ’s are mixed up and deceived! In fact, they deceive themselves (1:8)!

The fact of the matter is that denying personal sin is proof that God’s truth has not been accepted (“the truth is not in us”), for the proper response to God’s truth is repentance from everything that is false. That which is true and false cannot coexist together.

To deny personal sin while maintaining to be a Christian turns God into a liar (v. 10), for God’s message is that he sent his Son to die for man’s sin. To call oneself a Christian and deny one has sin is to call God a liar, for He has said that all men are sinners.

The real evidence someone is a believer is continual, life-long response to sin with confession—having God’s opinion and reaction toward sin. The one whose life is characterized by such habitual turning from sin shows himself to be a genuine believer, one whose sins are cleansed through Christ’s blood.

When the Lord makes a believer aware of sin in his life, the response that genuine believer will have toward that sin is repentance, confession, admission, and forsaking it.

How does God make you aware of sin in your life? The Spirit convicts you of such through the Word. As you are brought face to face with Who God is and how He wants you to live, if you are a believer the Holy Spirit will help you see such sin and agree with Him about it’s true character.

How are you responding to sin in your life now?

Study these other passages on how true believers respond to sin in their lives: Psa 32:3-5; 38:18; Prov 28:13

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Wednesday evening, March 28, 2007

The End Is Near!–1 Peter 4:7-11

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, March 5, 2007

If you had one month to live, how would that knowledge change your life? In this letter Peter writes to believers who were experiencing a fiery trial of their faith (1:6-7; 4:12-13) to encourage them to “stand firm in the true grace of God” (5:12). In 4:7 he says “the end of all things is near.” Too often believers either entirely ignore or are consumed solely with eschatology (what the Bible teaches about the end times). All throughout Scripture eschatology is given to encourage godly living.

After hearing Peter say “the end of all things is near” (4:7), we may expect a call to engage in some extraordinary act. Martin Luther (1483-1546) was once asked what he would do if he knew the end were today. He said, “I’d plant a tree and pay my taxes.” He meant this—I will live every day as if it were the end!

Peter tells believers “the end of all things is near”—that means it is imminent, it could happen now, at any time. Because Christ is coming, you must do God’s will! What does God want you to do?

Because Christ Is Coming You Must Pray! 4:7

Prayer is central to doing God’s will. It is essential for resisting temptation and sin (Matt 26:41), glorifying God (John 14:13), dealing with worry (Phil 4:6-7), obeying God (1 Thess 5:17), and for the rapid spread of the gospel (2 Thess 3:1ff).

Because prayer is so important, prayer requires a sound mind. Peter says you must have “sound judgment.” This word was used to describe the Gadarene demoniac after the Lord Jesus cast the demons out of him (Mark 5:15). To be of sound judgment is to be in your right mind, and is the opposite of ignorance and frivolity—you have a biblically serious approach to life because “the end is near.”

Praying with a sound mind involves having a “sober spirit.” When you are consumed and controlled by something you want, that is the thing that occupies your mind. It is so easy to be consumed by any number of things—good or bad—that it can be difficult to “wake up” or “get sober.” Detoxification is never easy or fun, but it is worth it. Peter also says to “be of sober spirit” because “your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (5:8). Satan looks for easy prey—if you’re alert and praying he will have a more difficult time.

The call to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” is the same thing as being controlled by the Spirit (cf. Eph 5:18). Christ is coming, and it could be very soon! The end is near! Keep your head, have a right focus, have right priorities—prayer should be at the top! Peter points you to a second activity essential to doing God’s will because “the end of all things is near”:

Because Christ Is Coming You Must Love! 4:8-9

Jesus warned that at the end of the age the love of many will grow cold (Matt 24:12). Since “the end of all things is near,” we need to stoke the fires of Christian love and keep them hot! How important is it to love other believers?—“Above all.” You are commanded to love; this means biblical love is a decision of the will that does something. It does involve feelings, but is not just frothy emotion.

How should you love since the end is near?—“Fervently.” Your whole soul and being is in it, you are genuinely and fully committed to doing whatever it takes to help other believers. How should you fervently love one another since the end is near?

You must forgive—“love covers a multitude of sins” (4:8). This does not mean that love atones for sin (cf. 1:18-19; 2:24-25). Only Jesus Christ can do that. This refers to Proverbs 10:12 and means that love does not “stir up” sins or broadcast them. Biblical, Christ-like love forgives, willingly puts up with, and bears all things (Eph 4:32; 1 Cor 13:4-7). It does not hang someone out to dry. This does not ignore biblically dealing with sin (cf. Matt 18:15-18), but it involves the readiness to accept others rather than grow bitter and cause division.

You must fervently love others sacrificially—“be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Pet 4:9). In New Testament times hospitality was necessary for traveling missionaries (3 John 5-8) and the regular meeting of the church for worship (Rom 16:5). If a family wasn’t used to such a sacrificial upheaval of their home for the sake of others, they had to overcome whatever kept them from doing this to show fervent love. “Without complaint” shows that this can be difficult and challenging and involve serious sacrifices; but, in light of the fact that Christ is coming and the end is near, you must sacrificially love one another.

This is a radical idea in our prosperous society, but when you demonstrate such love for one another you show yourself to be a true follower of Christ (John 13:34-35). The last activity Peter says you must give yourself to because the end is near is this:

Because Christ Is Coming You Must Serve! 4:10-11

Peter clearly says that God has enabled you to serve others—“as each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (4:10). Every believer has at least one God-given ability to serve other believers in the local church. Believers have different gifts for the purpose of meeting the different needs of believers, just as Paul teaches (1 Cor 12:4-26).

God does not give these gifts to make you proud but so that you will serve and help other believers and strengthen them in the faith. They are given for ministry, not to enhance self-esteem. Note that Peter says you are a “steward”—the ability God has given you to serve other believers is more a responsibility than a privilege. When you use your gift to strengthen others, you are being a “good steward of the manifold grace of God.”

As you serve the Lord through the ability he has given you, you must rely on Christ as you minister to other believers (1 Pet 4:11). Here Peter classifies spiritual gifts into two classes. First, if you “speak”—teaching or preaching—you are “to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God.” You are not to rely on your own “words of wisdom” but teach and preach the whole counsel of God’s Word.

The second class of gifts involve “serving”—any number of ways you help other believers. If God has equipped you to “serve,” you are “to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies.” You are not to rely on your own strength or ability, but God’s, especially through prayer.

These gifts and abilities are given to Christians to serve Christians, and that happens in the area, realm, and context of the local church. When you serve others God’s way and in God’s power, this will result in glory given to God—“so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

What would you do if you knew the end would come in one month? How would you change your life? Why? What does that say about how you’re living now? You need to examine your life about:

  • Heart issues that have clouded your consecration to Christ, especially in your praying
  • The fervency of showing love toward other believers with the same forgiveness and sacrifice as Christ
  • How faithfully you serve each other as God has enabled you for Christ’s glory

The end is near! Pray! Love! Serve!

Profitably Learning from the Bible

The Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible (see our doctrinal statement on the Bible). While the writers were human, its ultimate author is God. This fact makes what it says:

  • Absolutely true
  • The only authority for what you should think about God and how you should live before God
  • All that you need to live a life that pleases God

Because of these things, unbelievers must hear the gospel message that is found only in the Bible (2 Tim 3:15) and Christians must continually listen to and learn from the Bible (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Christian, while holding a Bible in your hands and considering all that is in it, it can be very easy to get discouraged—“How can I ever learn all that is in this?” Don’t get discouraged! Remember that real growth in Christ takes time. You didn’t grow from an infant to an adult overnight, in a week, or even in a year! Physical growth and maturity involves slow and steady growth, and such growth only comes from eating food. Spiritual growth is no different—“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Pet 2:2-3).

Perhaps you say you’re a Christian but you really don’t see the importance of learning from God’s Word. “What’s the point?” you could think. “Jesus Christ saved me from hell, so I’ve got the most important thing taken care of.” Consider what God says in the Bible about why you must learn from Him in its pages:

  • It is essential for spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2), the “text book” for Christian living (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • It is necessary for living a life that pleases Christ (Colossians 1:9-10)
  • It is what the Spirit uses to make you holy (John 17:17)
  • It is the tool for protection against temptation and sin (Psalm 119:9, 11)
  • It is the means of learning Christian truth so you are protected against the many false teachers that would deceive you and take you away from Christ (Ephesians 4:14)
  • It is the instrument used for serving the Lord (Ephesians 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In a nutshell, it is impossible for you to be and do what God expects of you as a Christian apart from the Bible. You must learn from God in the pages of Scripture!

Hopefully by this point you agree with what God says about how important it is to learn from Him in the Bible. How can you? There are three essential activities that you must be involved in to grow and mature in the Lord.

  1. You must read and study God’s Word
  2. You must listen to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word
  3. You must meditate on and memorize God’s Word

Let’s quickly consider why these three activities are essential for you as a Christian.

First, your own daily personal reading and studying of the Bible helps you continually learn and gain encouragement from your God. Think about that! Sin’s power and penalty had separated you from God yet He saved you from that. Not only did He restore you to a special relationship with Him, He gave you His written Word so you can know exactly what He wants you to know! By learning and studying the Bible you will have a regular diet of God’s Word to help you grow, and you can never get enough of this good thing! Start with the New Testament and then work your way through the entire Bible.

Second, you must regularly listen to preaching and teaching at a good Bible believing and practicing church. You will receive correct, challenging, and helpful instruction aimed at helping you be more like Christ. This is important because your pastor and teachers are mature in the Word, and you’ll need the help and correction for your own personal reading and studying. It is so important to recognize the importance of learning God’s Word with God’s people (Acts 2:42)—too often the emphasis is on the individual, and while that is important, if you look in the New Testament you’ll see that more often than not God’s people learn God’s Word with each other.

Third and last, you must meditate on what you have learned (Joshua 1:8), memorizing important parts, so it is ingrained in your heart (Psalm 119:9, 11). Continually meditating (mulling over and over) will help you grasp the significance of God’s Word for your life. Memorizing passages of Scripture enables you to always have God’s Word ready to use for any situation in your life.

How, then, can you profitably learn from God’s Word through these activities? You must be in SHAPE, learning from God’s Word—

Submissively: Always be ready to change in any way when confronted with God’s Word (Proverbs 1:23; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; James 1:22-25). It is easier to think “so and so should read this verse,” instead of applying it to yourself. It is easier to criticize the pastor or teacher than to give serious consideration to what God is saying to you through him.

Habitually: Discipline yourself to regularly read the Bible and listen to preaching and teaching in order to learn about God and His will for you (Acts 2:42; 17:11; 1 Peter 2:2). This commitment adds discipline, which will help carry you through distractions, things that would pull you away, and simple laziness or neglect.

Accurately: When reading the Bible, let it speak for itself—don’t change or miss its plain meaning (2 Timothy 2:15). Using a good translation will be a real help (such as the New American Standard Bible). Be sure you’re being taught from a church that proclaims and practices what the Bible says, not what people want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Prayerfully: Continually ask God to help you understand and apply what you’re learning (Psalm 119:18; Ephesians 1:18; Jude 20). Before and during your Bible reading time or listening to teaching, pray for God’s help in understanding the significance of the Word for your life.

Eagerly: This isn’t a chore to get out of the way but the wonderful Word to hear and obey! (2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Proverbs 1:24-33; 29:1; 1 Peter 2:2) Every time you have the opportunity to read or hear the Word, go expecting something good and looking for something helpful.

The Christian, Temptation, and Sin–Part 2

In addition to having a biblical understanding of the character and effects of temptation and sin, you need to have

Have a Biblical Approach to Temptation and Sin

First, you need to recognize the sources of sin and temptation. As a believer, especially if you’re a new believer, you may wonder “If Jesus saved me from the power and penalty of sin, why do I still sin? Why am I still tempted to sin?? Why do I still struggle with sin???” Good questions!

As a Christian, you still struggle with temptation and sin because:

You Still Have A Sinful Nature! As an unbeliever your life was oriented toward sin; your nature (what you were like, what you wanted) was oriented away from God. When you became a Christian, you received a new nature (a new character, set of desires) oriented toward God (see Rom 8:5-8; 2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4). The good news is that your old, sinful nature does not dominate you anymore—it no longer has complete control of your life (Rom 6:6-14). The “bad” news is that the lusts of the flesh (sinful nature) continually “wage war against your soul” (1 Pet 2:11). Until you are glorified, you still have the capacity to sin; those desires and leanings to sin are still there. However, since Christ is in you, you now have the capacity to please God. Thus the lifelong struggle!

You Still Live In A World Dominated By Sin! Your “old” sinful desires seek fulfillment through the things of this sinful world (Gal 5:17; Eph 2:2). Your “new” Christ-like desires seek the things of the Lord (Rom 8:5-6). There is nothing in the world that pleases Christ, so your godly desires will never find anything that will please Him (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Pet 1:4). You live in a world that is entirely opposed to the things of God (Jas 4:4; 1 John 2:16), so it is a struggle to resist its temptations and allurements!

You Still Face The Sinful Schemes Of The Devil! As long as you are alive in this world, you are in Satan’s territory (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2) and need to struggle, resist, and stand firm against him (Eph 6:11-17). Thankfully, because Christ dwells within you can successfully resist Satan because Christ is greater than he is (1 Pet 5:9; 1 John 4:4; cf. John 17:15)!

Recognizing the sources of temptation and sin is important so you will be aware of your own sinful desires and the sinful temptations Satan will assault you with while living in this world.

Recognizing where temptation comes from may be a bit discouraging though—you could be thinking, “Outside of me there’s an extremely powerful supernatural being who’s using everything in this ungodly world to get me to sin, and I still have a sinful desires and leanings that I have to struggle within myself. Ahhhh! I can’t do this by myself! Help!”

You are right—you can’t do it by yourself! Just as there was nothing you could do to save you from sin’s power and penalty, you can’t successfully live a holy life on your own.

There were false teachers in Galatia instructing believers that while Jesus saved them from sin, they needed to do their part to keep themselves saved by obeying the Mosaic Law. Paul emphatically says, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3) As they were saved by faith alone in Christ alone, so they must continue to live by faith in Christ, just as Abraham did (read Gal 3:6-5:15).

“But,” you may wonder, “I still have these sinful desires because of my sin nature. How can I not carry out those desires?” The answer: “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law…if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16-18, 25).

Second, you must live by the Spirit. What does it mean to walk, or live, by the Spirit? For a fuller discussion about this, see the lesson on Making Christ Preeminent by Spirit Led Living. Here’s a quick review of the important points:

  • While there are activities that are essential for living a spiritual life, relying on your performance of those is not truly walking with the Spirit. Instead of being freed from sin’s power you enslave yourself all over again. Keeping the checklist doesn’t make you right with God: it is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6).
  • Walking—living—by the Spirit means that your life (actions, thoughts, feelings, etc.) is governed or controlled by Him. This is not some weird, mysterious impression you feel at certain times during life. The Spirit-controlled life is just normal Christian living. When the Spirit controls you, your sinful desires are not controlling you! That’s great news!
  • How does the Holy Spirit govern and control your life? The tool the Spirit uses is the Word of God. A Spirit-led life that results in not carrying out the desires of your sinful nature is a life governed and controlled by the Spirit’s sword (Eph 6:17).
  • Note the following passages for additional teaching: Rom 8:1-17; Gal 3:2-3; 5:16-26; 6:8; Eph 5:18

Third, be in the Word of God. When we look to Jesus’ temptations for instruction we focus on His use of the Word, but we neglect the fact that He was under the direction of the Spirit. Because of that He responded to temptation with the Word.

Through the Bible you receive instruction on how you should live (involving your actions, thoughts, feelings, etc.), including how to avoid and resist temptation and sin (Psa 37:31; 119:11; Prov 19:27; Matt 4:1-11)

Through the Word you will grow in your understanding of Who God is and how God wants you to live. This will help produce in you a holy, reverential awe (“fear”) that will help you avoid sin (Prov 2:10-12; 13:14; 14:27)

Growing less like this world and more like the Lord begins with the mind (Rom 12:2). The objective is to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5) and build your life on Him (Matt 7:24-27) by hearing and obeying the Word (Jas 1:22-25). Through God’s Word you receive instruction for every area of your life of Christ-like qualities (2 Pet 1:3-8).

In order for the Spirit to control you rather than your sinful desires, you need to trust and obey what He says in Scripture. The more you are in the Word, hearing and obeying the Lord, the greater control He will have in your life. You need to privately read, study, meditate, and memorize the Word, and you need to regularly listen to teaching and preaching of the Word in church services (see the lesson on Profitably Learning the Bible for more help in this regard).

Fourth, be constant in prayer. Trust God (1 Cor 10:13; Heb 2:18; 2 Pet 2:9) and pray (Matt 6:13; 26:41). How specifically should you pray? Pray specifically, asking for help, expressing faith in God’s promises (see previous passages). To be constant in prayer means to have a steadfast resolve—be faithfully praying; it’s a regular part of your life.

How does prayer help you resist temptation and sin?

  • When you pray believing God will help you, He answers and will help you (Jas 1:2-8)
  • While you are praying your mind is on the Lord
  • By expressing faith in God’s promises you are strengthened to resist temptation and sin
  • As a definite command from the Lord (Luke 18:1; Eph 6:18; 1 Thess 5:17; 1 Tim 2:1ff), when you gladly and willingly obey this you will be walking by the Spirit; He will be governing and controlling your life

Fifth, be separate unto God and from sin. Avoid anything that you know would provide the opportunity for temptation (Prov 4:14-15; Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 15:33; 2 Cor 11:1-3, 13-15; 1 Pet 2:11-12; 2 Pet 3:14-18)

Determine to dedicate every part of your life (actions, thoughts, feelings, etc.) to Christ and not to sin (Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 7:1; Heb 12:14). Set your mind on and seek Christ, not the things of this world (Col 3:1-4; 1 John 2:15-17). Make Christ the center of every aspect of your life (the “scent” in your car, home, etc) (1 Cor 15:33)

As a definite command from the Lord (see passages above), when you gladly and willingly obey this you will be walking by the Spirit; He will be governing and controlling your life

Sixth, regularly associate and fellowship with God’s people. By regularly associating and fellowshipping with God’s people, you will receive for instruction, help, encouragement, and see good examples on how to live a Christian life (Prov 12:26; Gal 6:1; Heb 3:13; 10:23-25). God’s plan is for you as a Christian to learn and grow with other believers and help them grow (Eph 4:11-16).

As a definite command from the Lord (note especially Acts 2:42; Heb 10:25), when you gladly and willingly obey this you will be walking by the Spirit; He will be governing and controlling your life

Seventh, recognize and reckon as true your position in Christ. Recognize that you are “dead to sin” (Rom 6:11), that “sin shall not be master over you” (6:14), and that you have “been freed from sin” (6:18). Because of these facts, you need to make those facts “real” in your life—reckon or consider them as true! (6:11-13).

This is especially helpful when you have feelings of hopelessness while struggling with temptation and sin. You can feel like sin is the master of your life and you’re powerless to fight against it. It isn’t, and you’re not! Read Paul’s own struggle with sin in Romans 7:17-24 and then his confident faith in verse 25!

Eighth, do right. Before you were a believer, you did not live for Christ. As a believer, you have been saved to “walk in good works which God prepared beforehand” (Eph 2:10), to be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14). Thus, you must “be careful to engage in good deeds” (Titus 3:8) so that you will “meet pressing needs” and “not be unfruitful” (3:14). Just as you once lived to sin, now live to do what is right (Rom 6:19).

Be actively involved in obeying and serving God (Rom 12:21; Eph 4:27; 1 Tim 6:6-11). The old saying “idle hands are the devil’s tools” is true! Put your hands to work for Christ so they will not have opportunity to work for sin and Satan!

Ninth, don’t sin. This can sound too simplistic, but it really hits the nail on the head—a biblical approach to temptation and sin is to resist them (Rom 6:12-13; Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:7-9)!

Tenth, and last–look for Christ’s return. The “day of the Lord” refers to Christ coming in judgment and salvation (2 Pet 3:10). You will give an account for how you have lived your life as a believer, and you also look forward to Christ glorifying you so that you will be without any hint of sin (2 Pet 3:14-18; 1 John 2:28-3:3).

In light of that day, you need to “be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Pet 3:14). Those who will see the Lord are those who are striving to be holy (Heb 12:14). It is a biblical fact that “everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

If you are looking for Christ, that will affect what you think, want, and live for–seeing and being with Christ is what you will live for. Other passages to read about how Christ’s return is a help to holy living are Phil 1:9-10; 2 :14-16; 3:20-21; Col 3:1-4; 1 Thess 5:2-6; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Pet 1:7, 13.

Making Christ Preeminent by Spirit-Led Living

Wanting Christ to have first place all the time in everything and making Him that are two entirely different things, aren’t they?! Out of a desire to give Him the place in your life that He so richly deserves, it can be very easy to think about various things that you should do and shouldn’t do. To be sure, there are definite commands and exhortations that God gives Christians. There are things that you should do or shouldn’t do. What we’re talking about though is what do we depend on to give Christ the preeminence He deserves? Another way of saying this is what do you need to do to live a spiritual life?

Think about some specific things that are essential for living a spiritual life:

  • Personal Bible reading
  • Church attendance
  • Witnessing
  • Praying
  • Giving
  • Avoiding wrong music, entertainment, etc.
  • Dressing modestly and appropriately
  • Serving the Lord

These are definitely good things! None of them are wrong. If you were a young Christian and knew someone who had been a believer for a long time and these are things that he did, you could quickly come to the conclusion that if you do them you can be just as spiritual!

If this is your approach, I want you to see what you would be relying on to live a spiritual or Christ-preeminent life: yourself. One of the problems with the “list” approach to spiritual living is that it can quickly and easily degenerate into a “check, done that—I’m okay with the Lord” attitude. The result is that you are spiritual because of what you’ve done. The objective was accomplished by your compliance with a “law” of spiritual things that spiritual people do.

There were some believers during Paul’s day who felt that by observing a certain “code of Law” they would be spiritual. But listen to the apostle Paul’s response to them: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3). If the Galatians continued believing this way they would not be freed from sin’s power but enslaved to it all over again (cf. 4:9-10). Paul says that if one is in Christ Jesus, “keeping the checklist” isn’t what gets you and makes you right with God: it is “faith working through love” (5:6).

So, how does a Christian live a truly spiritual life so that Christ is preeminent in all things? The Bible says that you must “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). The idea of “walk” refers to how you live your life. Thus, to “walk by the Spirit” means that your life is governed or controlled “by the Spirit.” Another way that the Bible describes this is “being filled with the Spirit” (cf. Eph 5:18). This doesn’t mean that you get “more” of the Spirit. That’s impossible, because the Holy Spirit is God and omnipresent—you have all of the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit has to do with being controlled by the Spirit.

But how can you “walk by the Spirit” and “be filled with the Spirit”? Does the Holy Spirit “whisper” in your ear in some kind of weird way? Is it based on impressions or feelings that you have within your heart? How can the Spirit govern and control your life? Is it something that happens once in awhile at certain crisis times in the Christian life?

The Spirit-controlled and governed life is an ongoing thing; it is the normal Christian experience of walking with the Lord. The tool the Holy Spirit uses to govern and control Christians’ lives is the Word of God. Therefore, a spiritual life, one that has Christ preeminent all the time in everything, is a life that is governed and controlled by the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17). Consider these essential aspects of a life that is governed and controlled by the Holy Spirit:

1. Yielded to the Word (Simple Obedience)

  • Rom 6:13 “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” The more you’re in the Word, the more the Word is in you

2. Continual Prayerfulness, Asking for Help & Confessing Sin

  • Eph 4:30 “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Harboring sin grieves the Spirit
  • There isn’t a special prayer you need to pray in order to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit will be in control of your life when you gladly obey Him. God commands you to be controlled by the Spirit (Eph 5:18); He does not command you to pray to be controlled.
  • There is, however, a relationship between prayer and being controlled by the Spirit. In Acts 4:24-31 the believers prayed and were filled with the Spirit. The Bible doesn’t say that they prayed to be filled with the Spirit but prayer was in the context.
  • Before one is yielded and obedient there is a knowledge of the Word and a communication with God about the things to be obeyed. Prayer cannot be avoided; it is the expression of humility, submission, and yieldedness.

3. Obey, Depending on God’s Help and Enablement

  • You must take that step of obedient faith and obey God, and you need to do it depending on God to help you.

A spiritual life, one that has Christ preeminent all the time in everything by walking by the Spirit, is simply a matter of knowing the Word of God and gladly and willingly obeying it by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:13). What can you expect to experience if the Spirit controls and governs your life?

  1. Strength in temptation (Luke 4:1-2)
  2. Witnessing (Acts 4:5-6)
  3. Boldness in testimony (Acts 4:23, 31)
  4. Equipping for service in your church (Acts 6:1-3)
  5. Courage in the face of death (Acts 7:54-58)
  6. Power to proclaim Jesus (Acts 9:17-20)
  7. Thanksgiving and singing in the heart (Eph 5:18-21)
  8. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)

Walking by the Spirit, being controlled or governed, does not mean one instantly becomes spiritually mature. Consider a six-month old baby: she is in good health, but she is far from physically mature. So it is with a new Christian: you can be in excellent health but you have a long ways to go before you’re spiritual mature.

All this does not mean obedience will be easy and instantaneous. It does mean, though, that, regardless of how you feel or what the circumstances may be, you will do what God has said.

Remember, there are definite commands and prohibitions from Christ. The issue here is our attitude and approach to these. Don’t rely on keeping a checklist; rely on the Lord to gladly and willingly obey His Word. It is a freeing, liberating thing to realize that you obey God not out of a legalistic fear but out of a desire to walk with the Spirit.

The Christian, Temptation, and Sin–Part 1

How can a Christian resist temptation and sin?

Have a Biblical Understanding of the Character and Effects of Sin and Temptation

First, understand how the Bible describes sin. Remember this definition: Sin is a lack of conformity to the moral law and character of God, in acts, nature, thoughts or omissions (Rom 7:19; Jer 17:9; Eph 2:3; Gen 6:5; Jas 4:17).

It can be easy to think of sin only in terms of actually doing something wrong—you sin only when you say something hurtful, break a law, or lie. There is a real danger though in thinking that sin only happens when you do something: after awhile, if you think you’re not actively involved in actually doing much sin, you can develop a sense or feeling that you’re alright and are doing good.

Guess what? That “sense or feeling” is a disposition—an attitude, nature, or mood—and you can have sinful attitudes and dispositions!

As the definition states, sin is anything that falls short of who God is (His character) and what God expects (His law). That sounds a lot like Romans 3:23, doesn’t it? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

You fail to conform to God’s character and law in your:

  • Actions—“…I practice the very evil that I do not want” (Rom 7:19)
  • Disposition/Nature—“The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick” (Jer 17:9), “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh [sinful nature], indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph 2:3)
  • Thoughts—“Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph 2:3), “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5)
  • Omissions—“For the good that I want, I do not do” (Rom 7:19), “to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jas 4:17)

Temptation occurs when you are enticed or lured to sin. Through temptation you are being lured and persuaded to go astray from the course God intends you to follow. Temptation, like sin, can take many different forms:

  • Deception—“Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Gen 3:13). Satan succeeded in getting Eve to rebel against God by planting the seeds of doubt and disbelief.
  • Desires—Matthew 4:1-11. Satan failed to tempt Jesus to rebel against God through physical desires, pride, and greed.
  • Doubt—1 Thessalonians 3:1-8. Satan tried to get the Thessalonians to turn their backs on God through doubt.

It is so important to know that temptation in and of itself is not sin—Jesus was tempted and He was without sin (Heb 4:15)!

You must understand and recognize that as a believer your battle against temptation and sin occurs in every aspect of your life, and that sin in any aspect of your life has serious, harmful, and detrimental effects. You must be committed to doing whatever it takes to resist the many different ways temptation and sin can erupt in your life

Second, have a biblical understanding of the effects of yielding to temptation:

 

  • You will obey it and become the servant of sin (Rom 6:12-14)
  • The Spirit is grieved (Eph 4:30) and quenched (1 Thess 5:19)
  • Your zeal/enthusiasm to serve is lessened (Titus 2:11-14)
  • Your experience as a believer of fellowship with God, joy in the Lord, and the peace He gives are lost (Psa 38:1-8; 51:8, 12)
  • Your love grows cold for Christ and Christians (Rev 2:4-5)
  • Your heart is calloused to sin (Heb 3:13)
  • You’re deceived to think that you’re okay when in reality you’re headed for trouble (Heb 3:13)
  • Growth is stunted (Heb 5:11-14)
  • Ability to discern between good and evil is weakened, (Heb 5:11-14)
  • Desire to pray and ability to continue in it are weakened (1 Sam 12:23; Jas 4:1-10)
  • Provision is made for the sinful nature and you’ll stand aloof from Christ (Rom 13:14)
  • Pursuit of sanctification is derailed (Heb 12:14)
  • You’re conformed more to the world than to Christ (Rom 12:1-2)
  • You will not want to do God’s will (Rom 12:1)
  • You allow thoughts of rebellion against Christ to exist (2 Cor 10:5)
  • Your prayers are unanswered (Jas 4:3; 1 Pet 3:7)
  • You allow the enemy to infiltrate your soul (1 Pet 2:11-12)

 

 

How Should the Whole Bible be Interpreted?

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15)


Have you ever wondered why there are so many different views and opinions about what the Bible says will happen in the future, or any other doctrine for that matter? How one interprets the Bible will affect what is believed. Different interpretations will yield different beliefs.

The fundamental issue when coming to Scripture’s prophecies is how one interprets them. The various ways that the Bible is interpreted can be summarized under two categories:

  1. All the Bible must be consistently interpreted in a literal, normal way
  2. All the Bible cannot be consistently interpreted in a literal, normal way

From the following four points it will be shown that the only way all of Scripture should be interpreted is through a consistently literal or normal method of interpretation.

Communication Depends On Words Having One Meaning In A Given Context

In a single context the words can only have one meaning—they cannot have two or more meanings. If this were not the case, communication be impossible and would be nothing but gibberish and nonsense!

There is a world of difference between a word being able to be used a number of different ways and a word in a single context have multiple meanings. Take the follow sentence as an example:

After John passed third base, he slid safely into home.

You probably know that this sentence is in the context of a baseball game. Because of this, you would not understand “passed” in the sense of John dying, though “passed” can be used that way. You also would not understand “home” as referring to where John lived, though it can be used that way. You understood “passed” and “home” as having only one meaning because of their use in this context.

The languages the Bible was originally written in (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) were human languages, having human grammar (what the words mean) and syntax (how the words function in a sentence). The authors were genuine, human authors, having individual personalities, cultures, and language backgrounds. If this were not the case, we as human beings would not be able to understand their figures of speech.

Because words only have one meaning in a given context, a passage in the Bible cannot have a “deeper” meaning or more than one meaning.

The Author Determines Meaning

When interpreting the Bible—regardless of whether it is poetry, history, epistle, gospel, or prophecy—the goal is to find out what the biblical author meant by a particular statement. A helpful, guiding principle is found in Fee & Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 27—

“A text cannot mean what it never meant.”

This principle will help you understand what a biblical passage did mean and what it did not mean. When weighing someone’s interpretation of a biblical passage ask “Is this what the biblical author wanted to get across?”

If someone does not accept the literal or normal interpretation of a passage it is usually because he or she has an agenda that must be proven or upheld. Their beliefs do not come directly from Scripture and they make the Bible’s statements fit into their system.

The Unitary Authorship of Scripture

A third principle that must guide how all the Bible is to be consistently interpreted focuses on who wrote the Bible. Many people say that the Bible has a “dual authorship”—a human author and God. The problem here is that when you have two authors, you end up with two different messages! So instead of “dual authorship,” it is more biblically correct to think in terms of a united authorship.

How could Amos the sheepherder and God be unified in the production of a written message? The answer is the doctrine of inspiration. Consider these two important passages:

2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God”

2 Pet 1:21 “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”

When the Holy Spirit moved Amos to write a message to Israel, God guided him to write exactly what God wanted him to write and protected him from making any errors. God guided Amos the sheepherder to write a message that used all of Amos’s personality and way of writing (grammar and syntax), yet protected Amos from making any errors. The result of this united authorship was a single message given to and understandable by human beings that is absolutely true because of God’s guidance and protection.

The result of inspiration is a single message: What God said, the human author said; what the human author wrote, God wrote. The only way we can know what God meant is through the human author’s words. Because of this, no one can say that Amos meant one thing, but God meant another. What the human author meant is what God meant.

The Meaning is Based in the Text

Where can we find what the biblical author meant? Only in the text. There is only one correct interpretation and meaning of a passage, and that is the one that the biblical author intended. How can we find out what the author meant? Through consistently interpreting Scripture with a grammatical-historical method of interpretation. What does that mean?

Grammatical: what the words mean and how they function

Historical: the setting of a biblical book (culture, geography, etc)

In order to find out what an author meant, you have study the meaning and use of words in a given text and understand the important historical and cultural factors of the time they were written in. If you cannot get a meaning from a text, it is because it is not there! The only way you will get a meaning foreign to a biblical text is by putting it in there.

If the Bible is not consistently interpreted in a literal, normal way, what will the result be? Interpreters will find more than one meaning or say that a passage can have “multiple fulfillments” or a “fuller sense.” This raises a problem: where do you stop? If a passage can have two legitimate meanings, why stop there? Why not 3? Or 7? Or 70? Another problem is the issue of controlling interpretation—if the text does not control interpretation, then what does? Your imagination?

All of Scripture must be consistently interpreted in a literal, normal manner using a grammatical-historical method. That is the only way to learn what the Bible says.

 

Pastor Greenfield brought this message Sunday evening, February 18, 20007.

In addition to Fee & Stuart’s book quoted above, material was also gleaned from Rolland McCune’s syllabus on Dispensationalism from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, pp. 47-51.

Ministry In The End Times–2 Timothy 4:1-5

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, February 18, 2007

The Bible has a lot to say about the end times, but it can be possible to wonder, “Well, that’s great, but what does that mean for us now?” Christians and churches should learn from Scripture what God wants and expects of them in these times, especially what he expects of the man who feeds, leads, and protects the flock—the pastor. God’s Word provides pastors with four important truths that give guidance on how they must minister in these last days.

A Pastor Will Answer For His Ministry, 4:1

Paul is addressing Timothy for the last time, and for that reason these words have special significance. Timothy receives a serious call by the words “I solemnly charge you.” What Paul tells Timothy isn’t merely a good idea or nice suggestion—this is a momentous, somber charge. Pastors today need to see the seriousness of their calling and reflect that in their fulfillment of it. This isn’t a matter of fun and games.

This serious call is made in the presence of a solemn court, made up of “God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.” The preacher’s life is continually under the gaze of God and Christ—24 hours a day, seven days a week—not just for a few hours on Sundays and mid-week meetings. The day will come when pastors will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for how they have fed, lead, and protected the flock entrusted to their charge.

Paul gives this serious call before a solemn court in light of Christ’s sure coming, “by His appearing and His kingdom.” Jesus is coming, and when he does, the truth Timothy must proclaim will be clearly seen and false teaching will be exposed for what it really is. Jesus will reign, and when he does, believers will faithfully serve him. These are definite, future realities that have significant, practical importance now! They demand that God’s work be done God’s way until Christ returns.

Since a pastor will answer to the Lord Jesus Christ, he had better do what is expected of him! What does Christ expect?

A Pastor Must Preach the Word, 4:2

Here Paul gives four essential aspects of the ministry Timothy and today’s pastor must fulfill in these last days. First, he must preach the Word. The activity is clear—preach, proclaim, herald. It is not the pastor’s place to harmonize God’s Word with culture or science, to philosophize, or debate. He must preach the Word—all of it, not just pick out some things and ignore others. This is what Jesus wants for his church, and this is what the church needs!

Second, today’s pastor in the last days must always preach the Word—“be ready in season and out of season.” His ministry of the Word is not to be conducted by taking polls to find out whether people are ready to hear the Word or what they want to hear. It doesn’t matter if the times are “good” or “bad”—God’s message must be proclaimed! The call is not to “impact the culture for Christ” or to “bring in the kingdom.” The call is to preach the Word.

Third, pastors must preach to save souls—“reprove, rebuke, exhort.” Earlier Paul told Timothy “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16). The salvation of people’s souls depends on the faithful ministry of the Word. To “reprove” is to point out sin. To “rebuke” is to tell people to stop sinning. To “exhort” is to urge people to live for the Lord. These essential activities of preaching are hard to do if the pastor only speaks in generalities or ‘positive’ themes. Preaching in the end times won’t seek to bring a stop to specific aspects of sinfulness but will focus on making the hearers feel good about themselves, to “live their best life now.” Such preaching will not save souls.

Fourth, pastors must preach with compassion and conviction—“with great patience and instruction.” When preaching the whole counsel of God, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting, pastors cannot lose their temper—they must reflect God’s attribute of patience and forbearance. The soil out of which true Christian living grows is doctrinal, theological, and biblical in content. Pastors are not told to merely encourage moral living; they must give the doctrinal foundation on which a truly Christian life can only be built.

A pastor has a solemn calling: always preach the whole counsel of God for the salvation of his hearers. While engaged in this ministry, he must remember Paul’s third truth to Timothy:

A Pastor Must Understand The Times, 4:3-4

There are three important facts the pastor needs to know. First, people will not want sound doctrine—“the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” This world is not going to get better; evil is going to increase! The fact that people will not want true doctrine does not give the pastor the right to give them what they want or change the message so it is acceptable to them. Pastors must continue to preach the Word!

Second, the pastor needs to understand that people will only hear what they want—“wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Note where the blame lays—the hearers! Aaron made a golden calf because the Israelites demanded it (Exod 32:1). More often than not, people measure and evaluate a pastor by their own sinful feelings and desires. It should not be surprising that churches are formed on the basis of hip-hop music, beer, improving self-image, and thinking positively about oneself. That’s what people want!

Third, the pastor must know that people will reject God’s truth for lies—“they will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths.” They will actively reject God’s truth because their sin is reproved and rebuked. Refusing to listen to God’s truth, they will then invent a substitute that matches and supports their lifestyle.

By understanding the character of the times—that these last days will grow more difficult and sinful—a pastor must see the great need there is for preaching the Word of God in its fullness. The greater the darkness grows, the greater need there is for light. Pastors must not give people what they want; they must give them what they need—God’s Word!

There is one last truth a pastor in the last days must take to heart:

A Pastor Must Finish His Course, 4:5

The pastor in the end times must keep his head—“be sober in all things.” He must not be influenced by things that will divert and distract him from his holy calling of preaching the word. The pastor must not give up—“endure hardship.” The more evil these days grow (cf. 3:13) the stronger the current pastors must swim against. Pastors must win the lost to Christ—“do the work of an evangelist.” Sinners are saved through believing in Jesus Christ. How will they believe if they have not heard of Christ? How will they hear without a preacher? Pastors must finish the course—“fulfill your ministry.” They cannot go about their work in an uncaring manner. Pastors must throw themselves completely and fully into every aspect of their calling.

The kind of pastor a church needs in these end times is one who:

  • Recognizes the seriousness of his calling
  • Faithfully proclaims all of God’s Word
  • Does not bend to the times but faithfully ministers God’s Word in it
  • Devotes his life to doing God’s work God’s way

Why Christians Need Each Other

A Christian is a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ. You become a Christian when you understand and accept as true these biblical truths: you have sinned against a holy God; the just penalty for your sin is eternal judgment in hell; there is absolutely nothing you can do to make things right between you and God; Jesus Christ, the God-man, lived a perfect life, died for your sins, and was raised from the dead; the only way you can be delivered, saved, from sin’s power and penalty is to turn from it completely and trust entirely in Who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross.

The moment you become a Christian, many wonderful and amazing things occur: you are united forever with Christ; you are declared righteous before God; you are placed into God’s family as an adopted son, gaining all the rights and privileges that come with that; and God begins a work in you of setting you apart from sin to Himself. Your relation to God is completely changed, and that for the better!

What about your relation to other Christians though? Do you need them? Do they need you? If you are a Christian, you do need other believers. God expects believers to grow in their faith and to do so by growing together in God’s Word. The growth and protection Christians need to experience occurs as believers assemble together as a local church—it won’t happen by individuals or families attempting to do it on their own. Christians and Christian families need each other to grow in their Christian faith.

This isn’t ultimately an issue of joining an organization as if it were a civic or social institution. This is an issue of your obedience to Christ and attitude toward Christ’s people. I’d like you to consider six reasons why you need the fellowship of other believers if you are one of Christ’s followers:

Believers Are Known As The Church

In the New Testament, Christians are always identified with other Christians. The images used to describe this essential relationship between Christians are a body and a family.

The Bible describes the believers in Rome as being “one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). It describes every Christian in Corinth as being essentially connected to each other—“the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body…the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:14-15, 21).

Almost 250 times in the New Testament Christians are called “brother,” “sister,” or “brethren.” These Christians were from different cultures, backgrounds, and races. In a single church fellowship there would be men and women; poor and rich; slaves and masters; Jews, Greeks, and Romans. Yet they were “brothers,” “sisters,” and “brethren.” It didn’t matter what their status was in this world because they were related to each other in Jesus Christ: “you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

Christians associate with and are committed to each other simply because they are Christians! That’s what Christians do because that’s who they are—a body and a family.

Believers Assemble To Grow In Their Faith

Being a disciple involves following the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. Since Christ ascended into heaven, how are Christians to realize God’s plan for their life of being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29)? How is a believer to grow in his faith?

Right after Christ ascended into heaven believers were “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Christ provided believers, the church, with pastors and teachers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

Not only do believers assemble together to hear and learn from the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, they are actively involved in helping each other to grow in their faith—“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Learning more and living more like Jesus Christ has an important effect: “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). The result of growing stronger in one’s beliefs and Christian life is protection from wrong teaching and living. You will only be conformed to the image of Christ as God intended when you assemble with other believers and grow in God’s Word.

Believers Assemble To Obey Jesus Christ

Jesus gave believers special instructions before He ascended into heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Read the book of Acts and you’ll see that as Christ’s commission was carried out it resulted in people being saved, baptized, and organized into local churches. Then these believers who assembled together carried out Christ’s commission by spreading the gospel in their region (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

Jesus also expects believers to remember His death and look forward to His return by observing the Lord’s Supper. In the New Testament, whenever the Lord’s Supper was observed it was when believers assembled together (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

The New Testament teaches that obeying Jesus Christ’s orders was accomplished by Christians who had gathered together for that very purpose. This is how God expects His work to be done!

Believers Assemble To Worship The True God The Right Way

When the Bible speaks of believers worshiping they worship together (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25; James 2:2). This isn’t to say that you can’t worship God alone in your car—you can! Rather, almost all of the biblical references to believers’ worship are when they have assembled together for that very purpose.

Christian worship consists of believers’ joining together for the heartfelt magnification of God. Believers’ worship occurs when they gather together to hear the preaching and teaching of the Word (Acts 2:42; 2 Timothy 4:2-5); prayer (Acts 2:42); singing (Colossians 3:16); giving of finances to help believers and the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 8-9; 3 John 7-8); and observing the Lord’s Supper together (Acts 2:42; 20:7).

Is it possible to heed these commands by yourself? If you read the passages, No! If there is a good group of Christians in your area who meet for these purposes, think about the fact that their worship of the true God is enhanced when more believers gather with them! You need other believers to worship the true God the right way, and they need you to worship with them!

Believers Assemble To Help And Be Helped By Each Other

What kind of needs do you have? Your needs are probably like many other believers. One of the neat things about Christ’s body (the assembly of believers, the church) is that it is designed to help and be helped by its members. Remember, Christians are described as a body and a family. If your body and family are functioning correctly, pain is felt and taken care of!

This same kind of care is also what God intends for a church—“God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26). If you read how Christians cared for one another in the New Testament, you’d find how they cared for each other’s physical needs (Acts 9:36, 39), financial needs (Acts 4:32-35), emotional needs (Romans 12:15), and spiritual needs (Ephesians 4:12).

The Lone Ranger was a resourceful, smart, and courageous lawman, but there were many times when he needed the help of a posse—and don’t forget about the many times Tonto came to his rescue! God’s plan is so wonderful that He has provided for every possible need we could have on this earth through His Word and His people, the church. You can’t be a “Lone Ranger Christian” because you need other believers’ help, and they need your help too!

Believers Assemble To Encourage Each Other To Continue In The Faith

The experience of people leaving or never joining a church is nothing new; it was present even in the New Testament! There were individuals then, as there are now, who really wanted nothing to do with a good church, who steered clear of other believers, who kept away and stayed away. Is that good? How can it be prevented?

God tells believers “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). You can’t find a more clear and direct statement from God about believers’ need to assemble with other believers. There were people who said they were Christians but made forsaking the assembly of believers a habit, and God uses them as a negative example, something not to do. The positive side is that Christians assemble together to encourage each other to continue in the faith!

Before you read this pamphlet, were you of the opinion that you really didn’t see the importance of fellowshipping with other believers? Hopefully by now you do! Have you thought that you really didn’t have the time for that or felt that “church” isn’t really your thing? To believe either of these excuses shows either that you have some wrong priorities or that you’re really not a believer after all! “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

Christians associate with and are committed to each other because they love Christ and His people—their desire to be with other believers shows they are a believer. Committing yourself to regularly assembling with other believers is the real evidence of true love for Christ and His people. You will gain their help and encouragement to be faithful to Christ through the trials of life, and you will be able to encourage others as well.

If you profess to be one of Christ’s followers, you need other Christians and they need you! What fellowship of believers are you a part of

Download a PDF brochure of Why Christians Need Each Other

What We Believe About: The Church

We believe the body of Christ, the universal church, is made up of all believers in Christ (Col 1:18, 24). The church began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21, 38-47), will continue until the rapture (1 Thess 4:13-18), and is distinct from Israel (1 Cor 10:32). The church is the primary means through which God is working in this age (Eph 3:8-10; 1 Tim 3:15).

Members of Christ’s body are instructed to associate with one another in local churches (1 Cor 11:18-20; Heb 10:25). A local church is the visible expression of Christ’s body in any one place on earth (1 Cor 1:2, et al). It consists of true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47; 5:14), who have been publicly immersed (Acts 2:41), share a common body of doctrine (Acts 2:42; Jude 3-4), and have an orderly walk (1 Cor 5:9-13; 2 Thess 3:6-14).

Local churches exist to glorify God (Eph 3:21) by winning the lost to Christ (Matt 28:19a; 1 Cor 9:14-23), building believers up in Christ (Matt 28:19b-20; Eph 4:11-16), and sending them out for Christ (Acts 13:1-3; 14:26). These purposes are fulfilled as the church meets regularly (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2) for worship, instruction, fellowship, ministry, and prayer (Acts 2:42, 47; Eph 4:11-16), as the gospel is spread (Acts 6:7; 8:4; 1 Pet 3:15) and new churches are established (Acts 14:23, 27; 20:17, 28; Gal 1:2; Phil 1:1; et al).

The local church is an autonomous (self-governing) body. It alone has the authority to observe and guard the ordinances (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 11:23-24), elect its own officers, leaders, and messengers (Acts 6:1-6; 14:23; 15:3; 1 Cor 16:3), ordain men to the ministry (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Tim 4:14), discipline its members (Matt 18:15-17; 2 Thess 3:6), settle its internal affairs (1 Cor 6:1-5), and determine its relationship to other religious groups (Acts 15).

The local church is congregationally governed and chooses biblically qualified men to serve in the offices of pastor (also called overseer and elder, Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet 5:1-2) and deacon (1 Tim 3:1-13). Pastors shepherd, oversee, and lead the congregation (Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Tim 5:17; 1 Pet 5:1-3) and deacons help the congregation primarily in their material and temporal needs (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim 3:8-13).

The ordinances of the local church are baptism (immersion of believers, Acts 2:41; 8:38 ) and the Lord’s Supper (observing “close” communion, Acts 2:42; 20:7, 11). Every believer is to be baptized as a public portrayal and testimony of his identification with Christ (Matt 28:19). Every member is to observe the Lord’s Supper as a public remembrance of Christ’s death and anticipation of His imminent return, and they are to do so regularly, corporately, and meaningfully (1 Cor 11:17-34). No saving grace is present in or conferred through these ordinances.

Members of Christ’s Body are to be like their Head, Jesus Christ, Who has the preeminence in all things (Col 1:18). They are to demonstrate their love for God by loving one another (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:14-16). Believers love by humbly giving preference to one another (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:1-8; 1 Pet 5:5), meeting one another’s needs (Acts 2:44-45; 1 Cor 12:26; 1 John 3:17-18), supporting those who go out for the sake of the Name (Titus 3:13-14; 3 John 5-8), and helping sister churches in their need (Acts 11:28-30; 2 Cor 8-9).

Members of Christ’s Body are also to be holy, separate from all that is sinful or morally unclean (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:15-16). A local church maintains its purity and testimony through the discipline of unrepentant members (Matt 18:15-17; 2 Thess 3:6-15) and separation from organizations or individuals that reject the Christian faith (2 Cor 6:14-18; 2 Tim 2:19; 2 John 10-11) or disobey clear Scriptural teaching (2 Thess 3:6, 14).