Is Salvation Predestined? (Question 3 of “Biblical Contradictions?” Series

(originally posted 9/4/2015 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)

Question 3: Is salvation totally predestined by God? (Part of a series entitled “Biblical Contradictions?” )

Answer: The notion of predestination is much better served and understood by using the word “foreknown”.  Like we previously discussed in my answer to “Question 2” , God foreknew those who would be obedient (Abraham, Isaac, etc.) and those who would choose salvation. In that context, God “chooses” or “assigns” different people for different tasks and different levels of service. But still, it all remains contingent upon the obedience and submission of each individual. God doesn’t force us to do anything.

Roman 8:29 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son… and these whom He predestined, He also called…”
–Those who “love God” are those who choose salvation and obedience.
–Those who choose salvation and obedience “are called according to His purpose”.
–God “foreknew” that I would reach a point in my life in which I chose complete obedience to Him, therefore I was “predestined to become conformed into the image” of Christ.
–God “calls us according to His purpose”, because our obedience and humility make us usable.

Even though God already knew who would choose to come to salvation, we are still expected to share the Gospel with everyone we possibly can. For people to choose salvation, they have to hear about it, and they cannot hear about it unless it is shared with them (Rom 10:14). What about those who never hear it? Perhaps those who never hear it are those whom God knew would never receive it anyway, which is something only He could know, which makes that His business. Regardless, in all circumstances, only God can see a man’s heart (1 Sam 16:7; Jer 17:10), and since we can’t, we are called to share the Gospel with all men.

The alleged “contradictory” Scriptures the “Biblical Contradictions?” page uses as argument are as follows:

  1. (Psalm 65:4) “How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts.”
    God chooses the righteous to be near Him, but the responsibility is ours to choose to be righteous.
  2. (Prov 16:9 & 20:24) “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”
    We can make all the plans in the world, but they are still subject to the effects of other people’s choices and prayers, and God’s overall sovereignty. Hitler planned to take over all of Europe, but his plans were still subject to the prayers of those who were against his nefarious plans and subject to the free will of those whom God worked through to bring about an end to those plans.
  3. All other scripture used as argument on the “Biblical Contradictions?” page is based on God’s foreknowledge of who would choose to follow Him and can be understood in that context
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Will Everyone Be Saved? (Question 2 of “Biblical Contradictions?” Series

(originally posted 9/4/2015 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)

Question 2: Will everyone get saved? (Part of a series entitled “Biblical Contradictions?” )

Answer: No.
Not everyone will be saved because everyone has free will and, unfortunately, there will be those who will choose not to accept salvation through Jesus Christ. Once you hear the Gospel, you are accountable to it, you must choose. Those who hear the Gospel and accept it, are compelled to share it (Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19; Acts 1:8). That is our instruction, therefore that should be our focus:   sharing the Gospel with all whom we can. It is our responsibility to share the Gospel, it is God’s responsibility to deal with those who have not heard the Gospel. We know what God will do with those who hear the Gospel and reject it. What God will do with those who have not heard the Gospel is His business.

The alleged “contradictory” Scriptures the “Biblical Contradictions?” page uses as their argument are as follows:

  1.  (John 12:32) The literal reading of which, is, “If I am lifted up/raised up from the earth I will drag/draw all to myself.”
    –So first we must ask, Jesus will draw all what to Himself? We are told “what” at John 6:44, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” What Jesus is saying here at John 12:32 is that all who are drawn by God will be drawn to Him.
    Who does God draw?  He draws those whom He foreknew would receive the Gospel, rather than reject it.
    We are also told in Col 1:19,20, For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.Therefore Jesus is also attesting to the reconciliation of all creation back unto God through His death on the cross.
    When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was referring to many things, not the least of which being God’s plan for the reconciliation of all creation back unto Himself, including the salvation of mankind, which includes drawing unto Himself all those who will ultimately choose salvation. God tells us, I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done,” (Isaiah 46:9, 10). This means that He knew who would choose obedience and salvation before He ever created us. It is those whom He knew would choose obedience and salvation which He draws unto Himself. And because God is perfect in fairness and perfectly just, He has made the potential of salvation available to all mankind, even though not all will choose it. All of creation is reconciled through Jesus’ death on the cross, but not all of creation will be saved. (2 Peter 3:10-13; Rev 21:1; Isaiah 65:17)
  2. (Romans 5:18) “through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”
    When taken out of context, this scripture is used to argue that all will be saved, but when placed in its full and proper context, it is understood to mean the same thing I stated above: salvation is available to all, but will not be chosen by all.
  3. (Romans 11:32) “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”
    God shows all of us mercy because salvation is available to us all, but not all will choose it.
  4. (1 Cor 15:22) “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
    Only those who believe in Christ can be in Christ. Therefore, all who are saved “in” Christ by making Him Lord of their life will surely be made alive. Those who have rejected Christ are not “in” Christ, and therefore choose death.
  5. (1 Tim 2:4,6) “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth…. who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”
    Just because God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth, doesn’t mean that all men will. Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all, making salvation available to all, but not all will choose it.
  6. (1 John 2:2) “..and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
    Once again, salvation is available to all, but will not be chosen by all.

Hell And Eternal Torment (Question 1 of “Biblical Contradictions?” Series)

Question 1: Are unsaved sinners eternally tormented? (Part of a series entitled  “Biblical Contradictions?” )

Answer: It doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that hell is a real place and you don’t want to be there. Scripture used to debate the suffering that takes place in hell does not necessarily contradict itself because hell is a place that does not exist in our plane of reality. Hell is not bound by the confines of linear time and corporeal space like earth is, because hell is in a spiritual realm. Therefore, any attempts to describe it may seem contradictory because we are attempting to describe an eternal realm with a finite, non-eternal language and limited understanding.

There is also more than one “hell”, therefore if scriptures describing hell seem to contradict themselves, we may need to ask which hell they are describing. We know that one hell which is described by darkness is referred to as Tartarus, which is where the angels who rebelled are being held in chains until judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Another hell is described as a lake of fire, which is where the devil, beast and false prophet will be thrown (Rev 19:20; Rev 20:10). And yet another hell, referred to as Hades, is described as a sort of holding place for the unsaved until the judgment (Rev 20:13). Then, even Hades itself will be thrown into the hell that is described as the lake of fire (Rev 20:14).

Ultimately, scripture describes hell as a place of destruction.  It doesn’t really matter whether that destruction happens in an instant or over an eternity because either way, torment is involved.  All that matters is that hell is a place that God has given us the ability to avoid through Jesus Christ.

Biblical Contradictions?

(originally posted 9/3/2015 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)

I received an email from someone with a link to a page entitled “Biblical Contradictions Regarding Salvation.” Using scripture, the person who wrote the page presents the premise that the Bible contradicts Itself on the topic of salvation and the exact method required for a person to become, and be considered, “saved.” There were nine questions regarding salvation, each question having a list of scripture supporting a “yes” answer, and a list supporting a “no” answer. After reading through the list, three things became glaringly apparent:

  1. The person who wrote the page had never read the Bible in Its entirety, or in any substantial quantity for them to have any contextual or foundational understanding whatsoever.
  2. The person who wrote it is not saved, nor a Christian, and has no desire for such.
  3. The scriptures this person used to make a point of “contradiction” in the Bible are taken out of context and isolated to make a false assumption.

The first issue that must be addressed is that the Bible does not contradict itself, no matter how it may seem to us. The fact that a scripture is not understood by a reader does not make it a contradiction:

-“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (Num 23:19)
-“..if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim 2:13)
-“..in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,” (Titus 1:2)

When dealing with any seeming contradiction in the Bible, we must examine:

  1. What is the context of the passage?
    -Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking to?
    -What is the actual/specific subject matter which is being discussed?
    -Is it being used to support a doctrine previously discussed or is it a doctrinal statement that stands alone?
  2. What is the meaning of the words being used?
    -For example:  “I missed my family.”  Did someone throw a ball and missed hitting their family?  Or is the person far away from them and misses their presence?
  3. Is the statement meant to be taken literally or metaphorically?
  4. Is the person reading the scripture committed to unbelief?

As believers and followers of Christ, God expects us to have faith in His revealed word, The Bible. This is a given; it is basic, elementary and non-negotiable   Will we have questions? Absolutely. But to doubt His word is to undermine our own profession of faith. When Christians doubt the word of God, they bring doubt upon their own profession of faith. After all, a person who comes to Christ is doing so based on their faith in His Gospel message. And how did that Gospel message come to us? The Bible. We were not alive when Christ preached the Gospel message to His Apostles. We were not with the Apostles when they preached the Gospel to the early church. Our salvation is ultimately by our faith in Jesus Christ, but it is based on the fact that we have heard the Gospel message of salvation accurately, that the Gospel of salvation which we have heard was accurately recorded and faithfully passed down to us.

A believer must first and foremost submit to God’s authority through His Word. Then a believer must submit to God in faith that the Bible is true, trustworthy and reliable and that God, Who created all existence in six days, is also fully capable of ensuring that the texts that attest to His authority and power maintain their integrity throughout the millennia for each believing generation. Basically, if God can create all of existence, seen and unseen, in a matter of six days, then He is also capable of orchestrating the circumstances throughout history to protect and reasonably maintain His revealed word to us.

When we seek answers from God, He is faithful to reveal them to us. However, we must seek Him with the right heart and right motives. We must enter God’s presence in humility. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) and “He mocks those who mock, but gives grace to the humble.” (Prov 3:34)

If we examine scripture with doubt, seeking contradiction, we will always find it. One of the fascinating things about the Bible is that it can be twisted to fit many personal agendas, but only His Spirit can give the right understanding of It. Scripture even attests to this when we are told, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). If the intention of our heart is doubt and contradiction, we will find doubt and contradiction. If the intention of our heart is truth, we will find truth.

God will give us answers if we seek them with the right heart and motives, but it must also be in His timing. If the soil of our heart is not prepared to receive His truth, then it is pointless for Him to reveal it. See the parable of the sower at Matthew 13:19-23.

If He does not reveal the answers we seek, then it is His prerogative to do so and we must submit to His authority. In essence, God will always reveal the answers we need to know, but not always the answers we want to know. Many people go their entire lives without having questions that they deem important, answered. Some receive their answers, but it is only after they invest much personal time and effort in seeking God with a right heart– prayer and fasting and submission. Yet sometimes, even when their answer is revealed, it is an understanding they are given in their spirit and not something that can be particularly articulated as an explanation to someone else. God is faithful to speak to each of us in a way that we can understand.

Even so, perhaps one of the reasons so many seemingly important questions remain unanswered is because God uses our effort to seek out such answers as a way to draw us nearer to Him. Using our desire to know, to engage us in intimate fellowship with Him. For some of us, if we had all the answers, then we would have no reason or desire to seek Him.

Normally, I refuse to argue Biblical points with someone who has never actually read the Bible. However, because of the nature of my relationship with the person who sent me the link to the page being discussed, I have made an exception and taken the time and effort to answer the questions the page presents and explain and refute false assumptions. I have also made an exception because the person who sent me the link has, in fact, read the Bible, yet the page being discussed managed to cause them discontent. Therefore I have made the decision to post the questions and answers on my blog with the intention to help and/or guide anyone else that may be seeking answers also. And because the nature of this topic is core doctrinal issues which affect salvation, I have submitted it under the authority of my Pastor, who is also my discipleship mentor. I will present the nine questions and my answers in a following series of posts.

Question 1:  Hell And Eternal Torment
Question 2:  Will Everyone Be Saved?
Question 3:  Is Salvation Predestined?
Questions 4, 5, & 6:  Repentance And Good Deeds
Questions 7 & 8:  Morality And Charity
Question 9:  Requirements For Salvation

Worldly Happiness VS Godly Joy

(originally posted 8/25/2015 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)

It is amazing how many people get offended when someone points out that God is more concerned with our salvation than He is with our happiness.  If God desired our happiness more than our salvation then the first commandment would be “Love yourself with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind”  Rather than, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Interestingly enough, even the second commandment puts others before us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  God’s order is Him, others, then us.  God says we are last, but the world tells us we should be first.

Often times, obeying God by putting Him first does not make us very happy, at least momentarily.  Even more so, putting others before ourselves doesn’t make us very happy either.  But either way, God takes priority. There is a difference between our personal pursuit of happiness versus learning how to live with Godly joy. First and foremost, God’s desire for us is to repent and be saved.  Repent means to turn away from something, to stop doing it and surrender to God, putting His desires over our own.  Only then can we experience true joy and lasting, meaningful happiness by putting God first in our lives.  Only then are we loving God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind.  If we are not putting God first in our lives, then any happiness we experience will most likely be worldly happiness. Worldly happiness is fleeting and always contingent upon the circumstances or people in our life. True happiness, ie: Godly joy, is contingent only upon our relationship with God and remains unaffected by the rollercoaster of circumstances and choices that make up our life.

Those who feel like they have been cheated or robbed of happiness throughout their lives become consumed with the pursuit of it. They are convinced, “God wants me to be happy. God wants me to be happy” when the fact is, God wants them to be saved, to get right with Him, to have consistent intimate fellowship with Him and to put Him first in all things. We want God to be our Savior and to make us happy, however we are much more reluctant for Him to be Lord over our life and to teach us how to have joy. God doesn’t want our happiness, He wants our joy. Why settle for good when God wants to give us His best? Our pursuit of happiness is not God’s best. Our salvation and righteousness, which lead to joy, are. Only through right standing with God can we have the joy that God desires for us. For those who have the ears to hear this and the heart to receive it, let go of the worldly illusion of happiness. Let it go.  Close your ears to this world, surrender yourself to God, truly make Him Lord of your life, let go of the fear of unhappiness, fall into consistent, intimate fellowship with Him and let Him bring you into right standing with Him where you will surely experience true joy, a joy that cannot be shaken nor taken away.

Truly, as I’ve previously stated, if given the choice, God would rather us die unhappy yet saved from our sins, than happy and lost in our sins. If given the choice, God chooses the salvation of our souls over the happiness of our heart. If given the choice, God chooses the pursuit of righteousness over the pursuit of pleasure. Granted this may be a hard truth to swallow, but it is a truth nonetheless. There are many uncomfortable truths in scripture, but we don’t like to think about those, we only like to share and think about the ones that make us feel,……well,…….”happy”. That puts me in an unpopular position because God’s call upon my life is to speak truth, and quite often that makes me the party-poopin’ bad guy. People that God uses to remind His church of the truths in His Word in which we often forget or ignore, can seem like “Debbie Downer” or “Eeyore” to those who are offended by such truths. Anyone who busts up in a room and reminds God’s people that our earthly lives are a battle ground, not a play ground, well, no one really wants to invite them back to the party. That is why God gives tough skin, a bold spirit and a steel resolve to those whom He calls to such a task. Thankfully we are the “Body of Christ”, which means those of us who are called into one ministry are balanced by those who are called into another, yet we all work together to glorify God, bear Him fruit and serve each other.

Count The Cost

(originally posted 8/25/2016 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)

When Jesus calls us into discipleship, He tells us to count the cost. Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'” (Luke 14:27-30).  We must count the cost because Satan will use everything in his arsenal to dissuade and distract those whom God raises up to bear Him fruit and build His kingdom. 
It is important to note that the verse immediately prior to Luke 14:27 is Jesus telling those whom He calls, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26). Jesus is telling us that those whom we love the most, those whom are closest to our hearts, those to whom we are most vulnerable, will often be the ones used to hurt and distract us the most. Even our very own self will be used to distract us, our fears, our insecurities, the shame of past sins and failures, all the things that will serve to instill doubt in what Jesus is calling us to do. Jesus is not telling us to hate ourselves or those closest to us, He is telling us that we cannot value any perspective or opinion, including our own, over His and what He is calling us to do.

If you are called, don’t give up. Daily ask God to search your heart and point out the things that are displeasing to Him, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23). Get right with God, stay right with God and set your face like flint and finish your race and let God deal with the rest.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like flint, determined to do His will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

Standard Of Perfection

(originally posted 8/24/2015 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)

I just read a quote from a popular pastor of a megachurch in Houston where he said, “God doesn’t expect us to be perfect”…blah blah your best life is now, etc. Well, that’s how I read it anyway.

What he actually said is, “God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to keep trying, to keep growing. You have to be willing to change. When you make mistakes, don’t stay down on yourself, get up and go again.”

Now, many people may be asking why I take issue with such a blissfully uplifting statement. What could possibly be wrong with such encouragement? I take issue with it because it is unscriptural. God does, in fact, expect us to be perfect, otherwise He wouldn’t have needed to die for us. The whole point of Christ’s death is because we FELL FROM PERFECTION into sin and imperfection. Christ’s atoning death makes it possible for humans to reach perfection once again. We will not reach perfection as long as we are in the flesh, but God expects us to strive for it. “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48); and “..but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15,16).

Scripture says that we are being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) and Christ was perfect because God is perfect, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Col 1:15)  So that means that God set the bar pretty high for all of us. Impossibly high.  He set it at perfection.  But that’s okay because, while we are in this world, encompassed in these bodies of flesh, we are called to persevere as God performs His perfecting work in us by and through His Spirit, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil 2:13).

So indeed, God does, “expect us to keep trying, to keep growing…to be willing to change…get up and go again.” This part of the pastor’s statement is true, this part is scriptural, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4). But the very impetus of such perseverance is Godly perfection, “so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” For only through faithful endurance are we saved from imperfection into perfection, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matt 10:22)

False teaching is subtle and it usually makes us feel good about ourselves. False teaching will always have some truth mixed in with it, that is what makes it so successful, appealing and spiritually deadly. I pray for discernment for the Body of Christ, for we need it now more than ever before