Tuesday, 29 September 2020

ROWING UPSTREAM

 

                                   

The Christian life is often compared to a race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). But allow me to share with you another analogy. It is like rowing upstream in a boat against the current. If we slacken, we will not remain stationary but be swept downstream; we may even lose control and hit some rocks or the river bank, tossed by swirling, turbulent forces of rapids.

                                                                    


In our journey upstream, various crises, trials and temptations assail us, threatening to impede our progress towards the intended destination―our heavenly abode, a place of eternal rest. For until the day we leave this earth, we will have to constantly face the onslaught of the world, our flesh and the devil, all conspiring to derail our entrance into the kingdom of God.

For the Christian life is not passive but active. If we think that, once we have received God’s grace, we can afford to be complacent, merely rest on the imputed righteousness of Christ, happily go on our way and do nothing, why are there so many references on active faith?

Work out your faith with fear and trembling: Philippians 2:12-13

Keep striving: Philippians 3:12-14

Run the race with discipline so we won’t be disqualified: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Bear fruits that befit repentance and don’t rest on your spiritual laurels: Luke 3:8

Narrow and hard is the way to life: Matthew 7: 13-14

Holiness requires effort; confirm your election: 2 Peter 1: 5-8, 10

                                                                                 


Continual growth and progress in the Christian life is the sure way to keep us from stumbling

For he who lacks these things * is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins (2 Peter 1:9).

This reminder about how we were saved from our wretched state of sin and damnation is essential. Why? Then we will be motivated to develop these various spiritual qualities * (2 Peter 1:5-7) in our life. Now, it does not mean that we can be good through our self-effort. Rather, we are to humble ourselves, seek God’s grace and work out our faith in cooperation with God (Philippians 2:12-13).

How do we know that Peter is referring to the possibility that a believer might fail to enter the kingdom of God?

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things * you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 10-11).

The implication is that if we are not diligent in making spiritual progress, we might stumble and hence fail to enter the kingdom of God. The connecting word ‘for’ shows us that spiritual diligence and entrance into God’s kingdom are linked.

* 2 Peter 1:5-7 (the need to develop faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love).  This whole list of positive qualities in this passage is termed “these things”.

To conclude, the Christian life can be compared to a journey upstream in a boat. We have to actively row against the current. Continual progress is the sure way to keep us from stumbling, thus ensuring we will safely get to heaven, the place of eternal rest and reward.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to David Straight for sharing his work on Unsplash. The first two pictures of the lady rowing the boat and rapids are shared by him. 

RELATED POSTS

GROWING IN GRACE

Peter: "Make every effort to make your calling and election sure so that you will not fall." What does this mean?

https://bit.ly/3kRxJcF

IMPLICATIONS THAT WE CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE

Many believers cruise along in life, happy in the knowledge that they are saved by grace. But we often fail to see the many obstacles and pitfalls we will inevitably encounter in our faith journey—such as temptation, deception, spiritual warfare and complacency—all of which will inevitably present challenges.    

https://bit.ly/36tOZRx

Faith: Active, Not Passive

“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”

― Dr Michael L. Brown

Scriptural text

 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:1-11 (New King James Version)

Saturday, 6 June 2020

WILL BELIEVERS DEFINITELY ENDURE TILL THE END?


One of the key doctrines in Calvinism is Perseverance of the Saints: God, by His sovereign grace, predestines certain people (elect) to be saved, that Jesus died only for the elect, that God regenerates the elect to the extent he is able to and want to choose God and that it is impossible for the elect to lose their salvation ... for everything is predetermined and predestined by a sovereign God; man’s will has absolutely no part to play.   

To put it simply, Perseverance of the Saints tells us that if you are a genuine believer, you will definitely endure till the end. 

Or to put it in contemporary style: Don’t worry be happy, be blessed. Once you truly believe in God, you will definitely endure till the end and get to heaven. 


Now what did Jesus teach?

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
(Matthew 24:9-13)

Our Master knows that some will endure but many will fall away during the end times. And because the latter is likely, He issued the warning to genuine believers (Peter, James, John and Andrew), not false or professing believers who were not saved in the first place (Mark 13:3).

Therefore, if we say all true believers will definitely endure to the end, even in difficult times, we will make Jesus look like a fool.

Only some believers will endure till the end and be saved, according to Matthew 24:13. Other believers who fall away will not be saved. 

Next, what did Paul teach? 

Paul taught that true believers must watch our life and doctrine, and persevere in them, to ensure that we remain saved:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
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 Timothy 4:16)

What does Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 4:16 mean? If believers willfully continue living in sin, get deceived by heresy, or fail to hold fast to righteousness and correct doctrine, their eternal security may be undermined. Also, members of the flock taught by false teachers may also suffer the same fate. Persevering in our life and doctrine will ensure salvation for us and our hearers.

Why would Paul tell believers to watch our life and doctrine to ensure that we remain saved if all believers will definitely be saved as taught in Calvinism?

If we say that all believers will definitely be saved, whether we are faithful or not, we will make Paul look like a fool.

Elsewhere, Paul makes it clear that it is possible to believe in vain if we do not hold fast to what we believe (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). He also tells us that one day we will be presented holy and blameless before God, provided we continue to be steadfast in our faith (Colossians 1:22-23). Thus, inheriting salvation is conditional upon our faithfulness.

In conclusion, though saved by grace, believers still have to exercise personal responsibility, not rest easy that they will definitely be saved as this Perseverance of the Saints in Calvinism seems to incorrectly assure believers—as if giving them a false sense of security.

The issue I have with this teaching—Perseverance of the Saints in Calvinism—is its failure to interpret Bible passages that come into conflict with its highly predetermined stance. In fact, there are so many passages (see below) that tell us that salvation is CONDITIONAL.

If the fate of believers in eternity is sealed (safe and secure in heaven) and decided 'once and for all' the moment they believed in Christ:

Why did Jesus warn believers (branches) to abide in Him (Vine) or they will be lifeless, useless and be burnt (John 15:6)?

Why did Paul warn believers that God is kind to us provided we continue in his kindness or else we will cut off (Romans 11:22)?

Why did Paul compare the Christian life to a race in which he had to exercise self-discipline so that he won’t be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27)?    https://bit.ly/2zta94e

Why did both Paul and Jude warn that it is possible to be saved and later destroyed (1 Corinthians 10: 1-12, Jude 5)?     https://bit.ly/2Xyipb3

Why did Peter remind us to make every effort to confirm our election so that we will not stumble (2 Peter 1:10)?

Why did Peter warn that a believer who gets entangled in sin (world’s defilement) once again will face condemnation worse than if he had never believed (2 Peter 2:20-21)?

Why did the writer of Hebrews warn that it possible to fall away from God and lose our inheritance, like those who failed to reach the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:12-14)?

Why it may be impossible for a believer (with five clear-cut unmistakable characteristics of genuine faith) who turns his back on God (commit apostasy) to repent and be restored (Hebrews 6:4-8)?      https://bit.ly/3esnBnQ

Why did the writer of Hebrews warn that believers who willfully live in sin will incur God’s judgment as Christ’s atoning blood no longer avails for them (Hebrews 10: 26-31)?

Why did the writer of Hebrews exhort us to endure and not shrink back in our faith in order to receive the promise and not be destroyed (Hebrews 10: 36-39)?

Why did John tell us to overcome sin so that our names will not be blotted out from the book of life (Revelation 3:3-5)?

All the above questions cast doubts on the teaching of Perseverance of the Saints in Calvinism, which asserts that believers’ eternal destiny has been predetermined—safe and secure with absolutely no worries at all.

Now I am not saying that we, by any chance, can endure by our own strength. Rather, we have to choose (human will in operation) to follow God and ask Him for the grace and strength to obey Him. 

To restate it, believers are called to crucify the flesh, not by our own strength but by God’s grace (2 Timothy 2:1) and by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13). https://bit.ly/3dhXsYs



So, believers, which would you choose to believe for the sake of your eternal destiny?

Don’t worry be happy, be blessed. Once you truly believe in God, you will definitely endure till the end and get to heaven. That’s Calvinism in contemporary language for you.

But notice the striking contrast in the Bible—the solemn and grave warning of Jesus and Paul: Don’t be complacent, you are not there yet. Unless you endure till the end, you will not be saved. 

POSTSCRIPT

What is the first thing Jesus warned about when He was asked by the disciples concerning the end times in the Olivet Discourse? Answer: Deception. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). Without further ado, you know the point I am driving at. Many accept a well-established man-made theological construct as the truth, just because many famous and authoritative leaders believe and sanction it. And how many times did Jesus warn about deception in Matthew 24? Answer: Four times. This shows the importance of discernment—not simply accepting something held to be true by so many for so long. 

It is the contention of the above article to show that there is NO guarantee that a genuine believer will finish well in his faith journey and claim his inheritance in heaven when there are countless push and pull factors (Parable of the Sower) that draw him away from God: the world, flesh and the devil working hand in hand; temptation, deception, persecution, lawlessness; advent of the Antichrist, challenge of the Mark of the Beast and so on.   

And it is most unlikely that a “feel good” theological construct, such as Calvinism’s Perseverance of the Saints—which runs counter to Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings—will adequately prepare genuine believers to face the challenges of these perilous and tumultuous end times.

RELATED POSTS

STARTING WELL, ENDING WELL
If we start well in our journey of faith, does it mean we will definitely end well? Four accounts in the New Testament tell us why believers may not reach the intended final destination if they do not fulfill certain conditions. 

NON-CALVINISTIC RESOURCES
Let us have some meat with a different perspective in wake of a deluge of Calvinistic resources.

THE GREAT FALLING AWAY
The believers’ spiritual status is not static. Though we have been enlightened by the truth and transformed by the Holy Spirit, there is no iron-clad guarantee we won’t change. That’s because we are sinful by nature. And, because we have a will, we can choose to remain in God’s favour or reject Him.

IS CALVIN CORRECT?
John Calvin, the great reformer, believed that Christians can never lose their salvation. That is, Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS). Is he correct?

THE TWO SIDES OF A COIN


Though believers are kept safe for eternity, we still need to exercise personal responsibility.