Tuesday, 28 April 2020

WILL BELIEVERS BE JUDGED?


                                                                      


Will believers, saved by grace through faith, be judged?

In my interaction with fellow believers, when the topic touches on salvation and eternal security, some would cite the example of how the dying thief got saved through faith in Christ alone and how he was immediately ushered to paradise. You see, they tell me, it is “all by faith” and this incident is in agreement other references that we are saved by faith alone (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Yet, if we consider the whole counsel of the word of God, we will quickly realise that faith has to be proven by works (James 2:17,22,24,26). Intellectual faith not matched by works, obedience, endurance, perseverance and fruit-bearing is dead (John 3:36, John 15:6, Colossians 1:21-23, 1 Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 10: 38-39, Jude 5, Matthew 24:13).


Faith and obedience are inextricably intertwined. If we say we believe in God but refuse to obey Him, we are deceiving ourselves for John 3:36 teaches those who disobey God will face His judgment and will not be saved. Also Hebrew 5:9 tells us Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.

Many who believe in ‘faith is all that matters’ and ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS) would have great difficulty swallowing the harsh truth that believers will finally be judged. The following passage in Hebrews 10 is one of the greatest bugbears to eternal security (OSAS) adherents. It will be like a thorn in the flesh, debunking their ‘feel good’ theology. 

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Notice the reference to the Mosaic law about judgment against sin (physical death) and the fact that Christ’s blood no longer avails for those who keep on living in sin in this Hebrews10 passage. This means that believers can suffer spiritual death and lose their salvation if they trample on Christ’s atoning blood. That is why, as the passage ends, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God”. There is no other “feel good” interpretation to circumvent this passage; furthermore, it is clearly stated that it is God’s people (genuine believers) who will be judged. The words ‘dies’ and ‘fire’ clearly speak of God’s wrath.

Peter quoted Moses’ teaching that God will raise up a prophet (Jesus) and every soul that does not obey Christ will be destroyed (Acts 3:22-23).

Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4: 17-18).

Many believers like to think that Christians will be judged only from the perspective of quantum of rewards—more faithful ones receive greater rewards than ordinary believers but that is not the whole story. The above passage in Hebrews 10 tells us that by choosing to deliberately live in sin, we will invite God’s judgment—for which Christ’s atoning blood is ineffectual; and that simply means believers may lose their salvation.

                                                                     
All of God’s people will be judged. The rotten apples will be condemned if they:

  • Choose to live in sin

  • deny God or

  • commit apostasy (turn their backs on God)

Let us consider each of these three categories of believers in turn:
 
Those who willfully live in sin, harden their hearts and refuse to repent will be judged severely. For how can a holy God coexist with the immoral in heaven? If one has been saved and sanctified and yet choose to be like a pig and return to the swill, how can God accept one into the Kingdom of God? 
  • For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire”(2 Peter 2: 20-22).

  • Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
  • Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5: 19-21).
  • For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).
  •  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
But those who sin but later humble themselves by repenting will be saved (Luke 13:5, Luke 18: 9-14).

Believers who deny God will not be saved. Let us be reminded in these perilous end-times when we are likely to face life-threatening decisions—to acknowledge or deny Christ— whether it is through persecution (as in the case when a gun is pointed at one’s head) or when we are challenged to take the Mark of the Beast in order to survive. 
  • If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12).

  • “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10: 32-33).
Apostasy is condemned; it seems impossible to restore apostates.

  • For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it. (Hebrews 6:4-8).

God’s judgment is impartial and thorough. His fire will test our good workswhether it is genuine or not—before He assigns His rewards.

  • Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

This passage tells us that some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. Loss of rewards may happen because their works are tainted with wrong motive or pride. For example, those who flaunt their charitable deeds or love praying publicly to show off will not be rewarded in future (Matthew 6:1-6). As Paul said, God “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Not all who call themselves believers will be saved; profession does not equal possession.
Christ warned that there will be a separation of goats from sheep when He returns— professing believers in church will be separated from genuine believers (Matthew 25:31-46). “Goats” and “sheep” look quite like in a congregation. No one really knows until Christ shows up again to “sieve” the church.

Notice that Christ repeatedly warned that there will be a separation of good and evil. He used farming and fishing metaphors, which were familiar to the listeners in that era, to get His point across:

  • In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43), the tares will be gathered and burnt whereas the wheat will be preserved.

  • In the Parable of Dragnet (Matthew 13:47-52), the kingdom of heaven is like a net full of fish. When the net is full, men will select the good fish and discard the bad ones.

False teachers—who were believers once upon a time—will suffer consequences worse than that of unbelievers:

  • But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).

  • For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2: 20-21).

By the way, can you figure out why these false teachers are referred to as twice dead in Jude 12?

We are personally accountable

Friends, do not depend on liberal theology espoused by ‘feel good’ preachers. In the end on judgment day, we are personally accountable to God.

So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God (Romans 14:10-12).

When God calls us to give an account, we cannot rationalise that preacher X made me think and behave like that. In the first place, why did we draw conclusions through the tinted lens of someone else’s liberal theology instead of studying the Bible first-hand by ourselves like the Bereans?

Of course, we all prefer a God who does not judge us but only wants to bless us. But such a belief is wishful thinking—escaping from the truth revealed in the Word. A holy God will definitely judge believers—in keeping with His attributes of righteousness and justice. https://bit.ly/2ScxyN9

In conclusion, believers will be appraised according to our faithfulness, works and fruit-bearing and the appropriate rewards will be assigned to us. However, this is not the full story—some believers may lose their salvation, a view that will not go well with adherents of eternal security (OSAS) and Calvinism.

ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED?
The challenge I have with this teaching—ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED (OSAS)—is its failure to interpret individual passages honestly that disagree with this particular system. For example, Hebrews 6:1-8 and 10:24-29 clearly teach that people, after receiving the saving knowledge of Christ, can fall away and lose their salvation. Second Peter 2:20-22 and James 5:19-20 are as clear as tar on snow that a believer can fall away and once again be called sinners who have to be restored.
  Joseph Mattera, Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York.

POSTSCRIPT
As a young believer, I used to believe the simplistic classification taught by theologians: 
  • Christians will never face condemnation when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). The purpose of this judgment is to assess the believers' works and assign the appropriate rewards. Our eternal destiny is secure and there is no retribution.
  • Non-believers, on the contrary, will have to stand before God in the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) and face God’s wrath.
However, now after more than four decades as a believer, my theological worldview has dramatically changed. It is no longer true that believers will not face God’s wrath and there are so many references that support this view, including the dreaded passage in Hebrews 10:26-31 which states: “The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Of course, this warning applies only to those believers who willfully live in sin and refuse to repent). 

Notice that the book of Hebrews is primarily written to Jewish believers to encourage them in the faith and warn them against the dangerous eternal consequences of giving up on God (apostasy). Though some may argue that those who fall away are not genuine believers (not saved in the first place), and that genuine believers will definitely endure till the end, this weak argument does not dismiss the fact that the primary audience of this book was genuine Jewish believers.

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Monday, 20 April 2020

CORONAVIRUS AND FALSE BELIEFS



In the current coronavirus pandemic, we are warned about the danger of fake news, misinformation and false beliefs. Similarly, false doctrines are equally dangerous, if not more. Why is that so? 

In this viral pandemic we are often warned about the danger of embracing false beliefs. Believing that God promises believers absolute protection from the virus (based on Psalm 91) without us taking any precautions is being foolhardy. Some have died in this pandemic because they are too gung ho in their “faith”, having failed to practise simple measures like social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks. 

                                                                      
From the pandemic, we learn that wrong beliefs may result in physical death. But false doctrine may lead to something more grievous—spiritual death with eternal separation from God’s presence. Imagine spending eternity in hell like rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

Now who says what we believe isn’t important? It has dual consequences—physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal, now and in the hereafter.  

Let us now examine four major false doctrines which may prove dangerous to our eternal destiny.                                                          
                                                  Belief equals obedience - John 3:36                               

First, the widely-held false belief that once we are saved our eternal destiny is secure—we will definitely go heaven. ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS) is the biggest lie ever foisted on the minds of believers. It is true that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). None should dispute that. But if we think faith does not require any personal commitment on our part (obedience, good works, fruit-bearing, endurance), we have erred. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Faith not proven by works is dead (James 2: 17, 24, 26). Furthermore, if believers willfully live in sin or choose to deny God, there is no way they will be accepted into God’s kingdom (Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews10: 26-31, 2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 21:8). If they take the Mark of the Beast, under pressure from the Antichrist in the Great Tribulation, they will surely come under condemnation (Rev.14: 9-11).
  
“If a teacher merely tells you that God will keep you since He has chosen you out of His sovereign plan, and that you do not have to overcome sin, deception and persecution, whether you obey or not is immaterial because OSAS, that teacher is pulling the wool over your eyes. While it is true that faith rests in God's promises (the passive part), faith is also ACTIVE. And this ACTIVE part is what that teacher fails to tell you. Faith requires us to overcome, endure, persevere and be accountable. Why did Paul say, Fight the good fight of faith?"
          Porridge for the Soul

                                                                           
Second, undue emphasis on God’s grace to such an extent that His justice is downplayed or ignored is a most dangerous false doctrine. This is the ear-tickling (2 Tim. 4:3), sugar-coated dangerous error of hyper-grace. Basically, it tells us that once we believe in Christ we are justified, henceforth God will continually see us as righteous; we merely need to rest in Christ’s imputed righteousness. It claims that there is no need to confess our sins as all our sins, including future sins, have been forgiven. It also asserts that believers saved by grace are free from the demands of the law, that the Holy Spirit will not convict believers of sin, and that obedience on the believers’ part would nullify God’s grace. This teaching somewhat implies we have the licence to continue living in sin. But, clearly, we must not continue living in sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2). For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2: 11-12). Finally, this genre of “feel good” teaching attracts a huge following for it emphasises blessings―what we can get from God as opposed to self-denial and surrender to God―and downplays trials, suffering, costly discipleship and persecution. Who would not want such a watered-down version of Christianity? Joseph Prince, New Creation Church, Singapore, is considered by many to be the main progenitor of hyper-grace (‘pseudo grace’/ ‘cheap grace’/ ‘hyped-up grace’). For more: http://bit.ly/1ibPiTU

                         Believers have been forgiven of our past (not future) sins (2 Peter 1:9)                                      

Third, another big lie is that God promises us perfect health and material prosperity on earth. Believers who fall for this ‘prosperity gospel’ may be in for a nasty surprise when, despite their spiritual fervour, they are stricken with serious illnesses or experience financial shake-up like foreclosure and bankruptcy. To rub salt to the wound, such a lie often puts believers on a guilt trip: “All these bad things happen to you because you lack faith.” This false belief may also lead believers to become disillusioned with God when they or their loved ones suffer from a terminal illness, like cancer, in spite of fervent prayers. Believers who hold this false concept of God have only themselves to blame, not God.  In the first place, God never promises to heal always; He never guarantees perfect health. 

                                                                    
Related to the foregoing is the ‘name it, claim it’ heresy propagated by the ‘Word of Faith’ movement—that we can call into existence things that are not there. This is clearly a misreading of Romans 4:17, where it is God (not believers) who has the power to call things that are not there into existence. Believers cannot simply command, decree or declare for things to materialise. Furthermore, we cannot “bypass” the will of God (1 John 5: 14) and call into existence material things, like a luxury car, using “faith” as a tool to fulfil our selfish desires (James 4:3). Surely we cannot arm-twist and manipulate God for our own agenda.

Fourth, another dangerous lie is that our belief in God needs to be validated by sensational experiences and spectacular signs and wonders … and, if necessary, believers may need to go beyond the bounds of scriptures in order to truly “know” God. This movement exalts experience and “miracles” but denigrates scriptures. It also elevates man to become self-styled apostles and prophets who can receive instruction directly from God. Some even claim that their teaching carry the same weight and authority as scriptures. They love to highlight things like gold dust, angel feathers, glory cloud, “grave sucking”. Even New Age and other outlandish beliefs have been incorporated into its theology and practice. Jesus warned: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4). In the past, we usually associate revival with repentance, changed lives and fear of God. But the new revivalism is one marked by sensational experiences and signs and wonders with hardly any mention/emphasis on repentance from sin. The leader of this deviant movement is Bill Johnson of Bethel church, Redding, California. The wider movement commonly associated with this kind of teaching is the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). For more: https://bit.ly/2XTHwXp

                                   Grave sucking to extract the "anointing" from tombs of departed saints       


What do all these false teachings have in common? They tend to make believers complacent and give them a “feel good” feeling and a false sense of security. This reminds me of a frog which derives great pleasure resting in a basin of warm water. Finally, when the water temperature reaches boiling point, it is too late to jump out of the water. The frog has been lulled into a false sense of security by the warm bath water; ultimately, it gets cooked to death. That is the tragic result when believers are deceived and get sucked into the whirlpool of deadly, destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1).
                                                                                 
Today, the greatest danger to the church is not outside but lies within it. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny Christ (Jude 4). These are the false prophets who come to believers in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). Like the great deceiver, the serpent, these false teachers worm their way into the church, causing it to implode.       

If we have eternal security (OSAS), if our future sins have been forgiven (hyper-grace), if we enjoy good health and prosperity (prosperity gospel) and have wonderful sensational experiences purportedly from God (Bill Johnson and NAR)—as these false teachings seem to tell us—it means that God is pleased with us, His favour and blessing are upon us, and we are on our way to heaven if we should pass away. True? Not necessarily so. Don’t make assumptions based on misguided or false beliefs.

Salvation is not just an event that happened at a point in time in the past. True, we made a decision for Christ in the past. But we will not inherit this salvation till we fulfill all the conditions that come with it. Far more than just an event, salvation is a process (1 Peter 1:3-5). Unrepentant sin has to be dealt with (Luke 13:5). Past faithfulness cannot absolve us from blame if, at present, we decide to turn our backs on God (Hebrew 3:14, Hebrews 10: 39, Matthew 24:13). Being an apostle or prophet does not necessarily mean we are in God’s good books and come under His favour. For profession is not the same as possession:
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
That is why Paul warned that we have to embrace correct doctrine—and persevere in sound doctrine—in order that we might be saved (1 Timothy 4:16).  https://bit.ly/2z35rcL

                                                                        


That is why the apostle Paul shared that he had to run the spiritual race with self-discipline if he did not want to be disqualified. https://bit.ly/2wKUGuO

In conclusion, this viral pandemic is highly instructional. It shows us why it is important to embrace correct beliefs to avoid physical death. Similarly, believers need to hold fast to sound doctrine in order that we might be saved. If we fall prey to false doctrine, fail to overcome deception, we may miss out on heaven.

CONTENDING FOR THE TRUTH
We need to guard the truth (2 Tim. 1:14), continue in what we have learned and have firmly believed (2 Tim. 3: 14), preach sound doctrine, rebuke false doctrine (2 Tim. 4: 2), and contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We must not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God found in scriptures (Acts 20:27).
It is implied that, if we don’t build ourselves up on sound doctrine, we might not inherit salvation:
  • “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). 
  • “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

SALVATION:  A FUTURE HOPE AND INHERITANCE

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

One day, believers will be presented holy and blameless before God; but the condition is that we must remain steadfast in the faith:
  • And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.(Colossians 1:21-23)


               
                                                                 

      

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