Lutheran

A recent interview…

Peter Burfeind Pastor Peter Burfeind (pictured right) recently asked me to do an interview for his blog Gnostic America. I accepted his gracious request. The fruit of said interview can be found here. Pastor Burfeind also recently released his book “Gnostic America: A Reading of Contemporary American Culture & Religion According to Christianity’s Oldest Heresy.” This book is quickly climbing its way up my to-read list and I would encourage you to also pick up a copy. You can find it here. In addition, Pastor Burfeind is a solid confessional Pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Student Ministry which is a campus ministry at the University of Toledo. If you are a person who likes the idea of a solid confessional ministry for college students, then I would encourage you to consider supporting this important ministry. You can do so here .

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Quietly coming to a town near you…

020806-F-7823A-004This post is strictly for my confessional Lutheran brothers and sisters.

I’ve spent some time researching and writing about a network called FiveTwo. If you are a confessional Lutheran within the LCMS, I encourage you to make your acquaintance with the FiveTwo Network and its founder, LCMS Pastor, Bill Woolsey.  My encouragement to familiarize yourself with this pastor and his network is a lesson in discernment. You see, whether you realize it or not, FiveTwo is a church planting network and though it’s not directly funded by our synod, it’s leadership is overwhelmingly comprised of rostered LCMS pastors and their sights are firmly set on transforming our synod. I could write of the vast issues I see within FiveTwo, but for anything to get accomplished we, the confessionals, must take ownership of our synod by educating ourselves about the clear and present dangers within this movement. (more…)

Introducing the Church Fathers – Prosper of Aquitaine

Prosper of Acquitaine

Prosper of Aquitaine was a lay theologian born in 390AD.   Although the year of his death is uncertain, many scholars believe it was sometime between 455AD and 465AD.  Prosper was born in Aquitaine which is the southwestern metropolitan region of France.  Following in the footsteps of Hippo of Augustine’s debate with Pelagius and his followers, Prosper primarily wrote against the semi-pelagian heresy that was gaining popularity in the fifth century.  In addition to his contributions on soteriology, he was also a continuator of Jerome’s historical work called “The Universal Chronicle.”  His contributions are viewed as important due to a general lack of historical documentation from his time period.  The selection of today’s post is Chapter 8 from his book “The Call to All Nations.”  This is a fantastic book and one of his later writings. This book was recognized by Caesarius of Arles at the Council of Orange as a positive case in denouncing the semi-pelagian heresy.  Martin Luther found this work very helpful in formulating his reformation view of predestination, grace and the will.  If you haven’t read this work, I highly encourage you to get your hands on a copy and make your acquaintance.

Prosper of Aquitaine – The Call to All Nations – Chapter 8

Grace repairs God’s work in such a manner as not to take away free will but rather to heal it by itself.

In Adam our nature existed without blemish, but he by his wilful disobedience incurred many evils and transmitted them to his posterity in whom they were to multiply more and more.  The victory over these evils and their utter destruction only springs from the grace of the saviour who restores His own work with His own labour. For, as the Apostle John says For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil. He it is who breaks the chains of the prisoner. He clothes the nakedness of the robbed man, He heals the injuries of the wounded, but all this in such a manner that what He works in him is also effected by man himself.  He indeed cannot risk to fight against his enemy without a protector. He has to wage war against one who once defeated him. He should, therefore, not trust in his own strength which, even when it was unimpaired, did not hold out; but let him seek victory through the One who alone is unconquerable and who brought victory to all. And if he does seek victory, he should not doubt that he has received this very desire of seeking it from Him whom he is seeking. And he should not think that, because he is led by the Spirit of God, he no longer has free will. This he did not lose even when he wilfully surrendered himself to the devil. The devil perverted his judgment that goes with the will, but did not take it from him. What was not taken away by the one who inflicted a wound is still less destroyed by the One who comes to heal. He heals the wound. He does not set aside nature. But what was lost in nature cannot be restored except by its Author; in whose sight what was lost in nature did not perish. He is eternal wisdom, eternal truth, eternal goodness, eternal justice, He is, in short, the eternal light of all virtues, and all that is virtue is God. Unless He works in us, we cannot be partakers of any virtue. For indeed without this Good nothing is good, without this Light nothing is bright, without this Wisdom nothing is wise, without this Justice nothing is right. For the Lord says through the mouth of Isaias, I am, I am the Lord, and there is no one besides me who saves; and Jeremias says, I know, O Lord, that the way of a man is not in him; neither is it in a man to direct his way. Mortal man, born according to the flesh from a source that was cursed in Adam, cannot come to the spiritual dignity of the new birth except through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, he cannot even foster any desire for it as long as he has not received from God the ardour of this desire, about which the Lord says, I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I, but that it be burning? That fire is the love of God which a lover of the world cannot conceive in his enslaved heart. He is filled with the love of vain things, and even if he could escape these to some extent, and, rising above temporal and visible goods, attain through his own understanding the eternal and invisible ones; even if he could renounce the worship of idols and give up the adoration of heaven and earth and all the created things of this world; even so he would not conceive the faith and the love of Christ, because he would be upset by His lowliness. He would not with his own insight overcome the scandal of our Lord’s nativity and death. For, as the wisdom of the world resists the wisdom of God, thus blinding the pride of the self-conceited, so it pleased God by the foolishness of our preaching to save them that believe. Hence, those who are made arrogant by their worldly learning, think that the Cross of Christ is something to be laughed at rather than adored; and the higher a man rises in the attainments of the human sciences, the more he scorns the humility and feebleness of our preaching. No wonder either, that pagan philosophy opposes the Gospel of the Cross of Christ, when Jewish learning also resists it. We conclude that neither the learned nor the illiterate of whatever race or rank come to God led by human reason; but every man who is converted to God is first stirred by God’s grace. For man is no light unto himself, nor can he inflame his own heart with a ray of his own light. If Saint John than whom no son of men was greater, was not the light because he did not shine with his own brightness, but had received the power to enlighten others from the true Light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world: what man is there who would give up so many conflicting opinions, so many constraining habits, so many inveterate prejudices, relying only on his own judgment and helped solely by the spoken word of a teacher? Grace would then consist only in the exterior hearing of the doctrine and the whole of a man’s faith would spring from his own will If such were the case, there would be no difference between grace and the Law; and the spirit of forgiveness would enliven no one if the letter that kills remained. For indeed the Law commands things to be done or avoided, but it does not help one to do or to avoid them. Its rigour is complied with not out of free choice but out of fear. But the Lord with a view not to destroy but to fulfill the Law, through the help of His grace, made the command of the Law effective, and through the abundance of His clemency lifted its penal sanction so that He might not avenge sin with punishments, but destroy it through forgiveness. That is why the adulterous woman whom the Law prescribed to be stoned, was set free by Him with truth and grace, when the avengers of the Law frightened with the state of their own conscience had left the trembling guilty woman to the judgment of Him who had come to seek and save what was lost. And for that reason He, bowing down that is, stooping down to our human level and intent on the work of our reformation-wrote with His finger on the ground in order to repeal the Law of the commandments with the decrees of His grace and to reveal Himself as the One who had said, I will give my laws in their understanding and I will write them in their heart. This indeed He does every day when He infuses His will into the hearts of those who are called, and when with the pen of the Holy Spirit the Truth mercifully rewrites on the pages of their souls all that the devil enviously falsified. Whenever, then, the word of God enters into the ears of the body through the ministry of the preachers, the action of the divine power fuses with the sound of a human voice, and He who is the inspirer of the preacher’s office is also the strength of the hearer’s heart. Then the food of the word becomes sweet to the soul; the darkness of old is expelled by the new light; the interior eye is freed from the cataracts of the ancient error; the soul passes from one will to another, and although the will that is driven out lingers on for a while, yet the newborn one claims for itself all that is better in man, so that the law of sin and the law of God do not dwell in the same way and together in the same man. And then, whilst the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit also resists the desires of the flesh, the tempter ventures to ambush man through exterior objects; but the mind strong with God’s help prevails. For, obviously, there are occasions for struggle and these serve the great profit of the faithful: their weakness is buffeted that their holiness may not yield to pride. Hence, too, the Apostle says: Lest in the greatness of the revelations I should be exalted, there was given me . . . an angel of Satan to buffet me. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord that it might depart from me, but He said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee, for power is made perfect in infirmity. Let, then, the Lord seek His image; let the Good Shepherd find His erring sheep and not disdain to bear it, sick and tired for long of the trackless wilds, on His shoulders, and save it not only by calling it back, but also by carrying it along. Let the Lord seek His image, wash away from it all accumulated uncleanness that has stained it and so brighten up the mirror of the human heart. For it is written: Who can make clean that is conceived of unclean seed? Is it not Thou who only art? Let the Lord seek His image that in its renovation and justification the grace of its Reformer may appear, as the Apostle Paul testifies to have happened to himself when he says: And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea, which were in Christ. . . . They had heard only that he who persecuted us in times past doth now preach the faith which . . .he impugned. And they glorified God in me. Such was the conviction of the Christian people at that time, such the belief of the first members of the Church who had but one heart and one soul: when they saw a man converted from his error to the acceptance of the truth, they gave glory to God and confessed that the convert’s faith came from a divine gift. The Lord Himself when instructing His disciples, the teachers of all nations, said: So let your light shine before men, that, seeing your good works, they may magnify your Father who is in heaven.

The Bride of Christ Needs Counseling…

I’m thankful that I’m married.

Watching my single friends run through the gambit of 21st century dating etiquette allows me to feel all the more blessed.

The onslaught of what is considered culturally acceptable on social media platforms boggles the mind as many freely expose the dark taboo-ish corners of their lives in an effort to gain attention through individualism and avant garde living.  I’m amazed at what is considered “commonplace” in the arena of social media.  Passive aggressive girlfriends who, with their forked tongues, speak slander and praise as an attempt to manipulate their way through relationships.  Misogynist man-boys who’s goal is to mark their territory and expand their imaginary empires by the means of lies, deception and emotional thievery.  This formerly sealed off corner now has the spotlight through the likes of  reality TV and no-holds-barred social media.  The landscape is hostile, lawless and ultimately narcissistic.

This paradigm shift makes me all the more satisfied that I not only have a wife, but that I love her and find security and assurance in our relationship.  Sure neither of us are close to being perfect and our relationship has its ups and downs, but as I watch while others openly live their lives in the public forum, I began to entertain a thought.  What would the bride of Christ, which is the church, look like within the confines of  modern day social media?  Do we look passive aggressive?  Do we jump into the relationship just to strip-mine the benefits for ourselves and then bail?  Are we emotionally unbalanced?  What is our current mental state?  I recently read an article on “Ask Men” titled “10 signs she’s crazy.”  In the article the author lays out 10 signs that you might be dating someone who is crazy and when I compared the list to the current state of the Church, the results were scary.

10. Controls Narrative

We like to be the one that controls the narrative.  So often, God’s word is conformed to our worldview instead of our worldview being conformed to God’s word.  We control this narrative through many ways such as the purpose and direction of the church service, how worship is viewed and a strange view of what prayer actually is.  I could spend much time delving into how the modern church is embracing culture instead of maintaining its position as counter-cultural, but for the sake of time I’m going to focus on prayer.  Prayer is often viewed as a literal conversation between us and God.  In the personal setting many are instructed to find a quiet room, talk to God and wait in silence until he answers.  This is the perceived “conversation” that many Christians expect.  However, this is not the biblical definition of prayer.  Prayer is simply talking to God, through Jesus.  The perfect picture of this is found in the Old Testament where the high priest would offer prayers for the people and would burn incense to represent the prayers ascending to God. Interestingly enough, the smoke never descended back to the people. Nor did it change back to incense and audibly reply. This is because prayer is not like our earthly conversations.  We should not expect an answer directly from God, but instead should seek answers in his word.  That is how God speaks to us.  Prayer is not a conversation.  Look at the Psalms.  David was a prophet and how many of his prayers were conversational?  Jesus is God and taught us how to pray in Matthew 6 and Mark 11.  Jesus’ prayer doesn’t end “…and deliver us from evil and answer me back to let me know if I should date Cindy.” The Lord’s Prayer was given because it shows God’s precise will for each of our lives.  It’s not that Cindy doesn’t matter, but that if you are honestly praying the contents of the Lord’s prayer, then you will trust that his will be done.  I am not saying that God could not talk directly to us, only that direct revelation is not normative. The modern church correctly takes its every need and desire to God, as directed through scripture, but controls dialogue when answers are sought outside the appropriate method of response, given by God, which is through his word.   The answers to our prayers will ultimately be answered as God perfectly reveals his will in his perfect time.

9. Self Aggrandizing

There is so much self importance placed upon the individual that Christ is left as a supporting cast member instead the lead actor.  This happens often as many sermons are set up to make us feel important.  These days, it’s more important to make people feel like they have purpose than to show them they are a sinner in desperate need of salvation.  I mean, who wants to feel bad about themselves? Many pastors subtly engage in this behavior by reading themselves into the biblical texts.  When the narrative of David and Goliath is the Sunday text, the pastor compares the congregations life to that of David and accordingly asks them to identify the “Goliath” in their lives.  This belittling of the biblical narrative not only takes our eyes off of Christ and his scarlet thread through the old testament, but feeds our inner narcissist as we suddenly have the power to slay our giants of guilt, debt or anger.  The problem is that Goliath was a real Philistine giant not a projection of our problems.  The bible is not about us.  The bible is about Jesus and what he has done FOR us.  All things point to him and we can rest in what he has accomplished in our place.  The bible isn’t a self help book that leads us on a path to self actualization, but instead is a book enables us to die to self as we place our faith in Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, that came, bled, died and rose again for our justification.  The church should be aggrandizing it’s groom, Jesus, not itself.

8. Hates other women

How often do Christians look down on unbelievers living in exposed sin?  How often are our lives lived as if we are sinning less and less while the world around us are way worse sinners than we are?  Have you ever caught yourself feeling pretty good on the inside when a person that annoys you gets caught in sin?  Have you ever had a person tailgate you for 10 miles until you move over and let them pass only to think “I hope there’s a cop up there waiting to give them a ticket” as if you never speed?  How about realizing that you are sinning by not speeding because your motive for driving under the limit is fueled by greed instead of a desire to serve Christ through obedience? How often do we look like Pharisees on both the inside and out. This attitude against unbelievers is true hatred.  Love would come along side them.  Love is not haughty.  Love would not discount the damage and and ugliness of their sin, but would point to Christ as the one who died and rose again for those sins.  Love would point to repentance, not as a process to perfection, but as a realization of complete inability to please God apart from the work of Jesus Christ.  True love doesn’t hate others through haughty eyes that see the spec in their neighbor’s eye while missing the plank in their own.  We often harbor hatred for others because of our own insecurities.  We may have been deeply, personally hurt by a particular sin of others and now paint those with even a hint of that sin with the broad brush of reprobation. We often hate because we see what we don’t like about ourselves or our experiences in others.  That sin is just as damning as the sin committed against us because both sins are in opposition to God.  This is precisely what 1 John 4:20 is talking about.

7. Isolates herself

How many times do we like to hang out in our comfortable groups, speaking Christianese as a way to protect ourselves against the trials and tribulations of this world.  This is not only unhealthy for us, it is also hypocritical.  Hanging out with “only” Christians as we isolate ourselves not only implies superiority, but also projects an unloving attitude.  This attitude will reveal itself in the places in which we are in contact with the largest population of unbelievers…which is usually our work environments.  Our unbelieving co-workers are curious as to why we claim to be Christians, but fail to show them any love or always turn them down when they extend an invitation.  The mission field is wherever our vocation is.  Every time we head into the office, job site or the onto the production floor we carry the torch of Christianity through our thought, word and deed.  The same goes for when we visit others work places as we dine in restaurants, pick up our children at daycare and interact with others at the grocery store. The world doesn’t need to see us in our collective groups of dissociation.  The world needs to hear the comfort of the full proclamation of the gospel message.  The world needs to know that we struggle just as they struggle, but that our faith and hope lay in the one who came and died for the sins of the world instead of faith in our works.  Isolation is not an adjective that defines the Christian life.

6. Weird about Exes

We are pretty weird about our exes.  Our exes in this case are the idols that we used to (and continue) to exalt in place of God.  These idols could be food, comfort, luxury, pietism, other people…really anything.  As Calvin famously said, our hearts are idol factories.  This being the case, we are weird about them.  We struggle to call them what they are. We often run back to them in an attempt to satisfy the longings of our sinful flesh.  It’s a weird coping mechanism. On one hand we hate and renounce them while on the other, we secretly love and cling to them.  Our God is a jealous God who doesn’t desire to interact with our former crushes.  He wishes to exterminate them and call them out for what they really are…false securities of our sinful flesh.

5. False Accusations

Many times in an effort to comfort ourselves, we project our shortcomings onto our loved ones.  When we see the things that we hate so much about ourselves in other people we tend to harp on it.  This is an interesting paradigm when compared to our relationship with Christ.  How many times, in our sin, have we said “Well you made me this way.”  How often to we project our shortcomings onto Christ as if he is responsible for our condition. The interesting twist is that even though he is not responsible for our condition, he did willingly and actively take our place on the cross.  He bore each and everyone of our sins that we falsely blame him for to earn our pardon.  He defeated death and the false accusations which to him were very real, true and painful as he suffered and died only to rise again for our justification.

4. Shaves her head

We are attention seekers.  We really love attention even if it’s negative.  We do weird things in order to steal the spotlight.  Many times these weird things are a blemish to the name of Christ. We do many of these attention seeking acts in the name of relevance with the tag line “If it could only save one person…” as our qualifier.  We shave our heads by attempting to make the worship service “entertaining.”  This could be as ridiculous as an arena rock service with smoke machines and laser lights or as head scratching as a Mixed Martial Arts Fight Church (I am not lying.  This is a real thing).  This is akin to the girlfriend that always acts outrageous as a means to gain acceptance, while her boyfriend stands at the side shaking his head in disgust.  Once again the church is and always will be counter-cultural.  It’s not counter-cultural to draw attention to itself because it’s an attention seeker, but because we have been given a true picture of what the church should look like in scripture and it’s never been bright lights and parties to draw in unbelievers.  For 120 years Noah preached the word to all who would hear.  Scripture doesn’t tell us that Noah offered free drinks, a rock concert and a MMA fight to get people into the Ark.  He simply preached the word.  Sure the Ark was a spectacle. A spectacle of ridicule instead of relevance.  The same Ark that he was ridiculed for building, is the same Ark that God used to save him and the only 7 others in the world that believed God’s word, which were Noah’s family.  We shouldn’t figuratively shave our heads to focus the attention on us, but instead should stay with the outline that Scripture gives us and focus the spotlight on Jesus Christ.  Anything we do to steal the spotlight, will take our eyes off of him.

3. Hits below the belt

This can either be a literal kick or an verbal spar.  Either are equally painful.  Angry and hateful comments about our family or lack of success should be off limits to our spouses, but sometimes find themselves fair game in the heat of battle. The church utilizes these cheap shots against our Lord and Savior when we deny the efficacy of the sacraments.  Jesus, through his word, promises to be present and offer gifts through baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution of sin.  When the church, through many denominations, deny what Jesus proclaims using arguments of fallen reason, it is a hit below the belt.  Jesus offers to meet us and give himself to us through these particular means and many reject them because it doesn’t fit within their comfort zone or desired understanding.  I am sure that some will take exception with this, but think about it for a moment.  If the sacraments are truly efficacious, as I believe the word clearly proclaims, then rejecting them on any basis would be a supreme low blow to the one offering his presence and gifts.

2. Contradicts herself

This deals with the sad fact that many Christians that I run into, couldn’t explain their faith if their life depended on it.  Jay Leno used to have a segment called “man on the street” where random tourists outside his studio would be asked insanely simple questions and fail to give the correct answer.  If we did a similar experiment in many of our churches, I hypothesize that the results would be similar.  This is a major issue because those participating in Jay Leno’s segment aren’t making a knowledge or affiliated claim before being subjected to the simple questions whereas those in the church are claiming fellowship and thus should know something substantive about what they believe.  This does not mean that each and every Christian should be able to succinctly wax eloquent on the hypostatic union, but should at minimal, be able to defend the faith they claim to lay hold of.  When we don’t know what we believe, we become walking and talking contradictions.  These contradictions are easy to spot and make us easy picking for false teachings and teachers who will gladly guide us to apostasy.  Could you imagine a marriage where the wife has only superficial knowledge of her husband?  Could you imagine the confusion and utter amazement of the husband for how clueless his wife really is?  It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the relationship is based off of what the bride can “get” instead of actual genuine, sacrificial love.

1. Other crazy people think she’s crazy

Atheists and agnostics are quick to point out all the craziness that was pointed out in the previous 9 signs.  While I am fine with a self-proclaimed atheist or agnostic calling me crazy if I am proclaiming the truth of the gospel, (1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing) it’s a whole other story to behave in the fashion of the “signs” listed above and be justly labeled crazy.  There is a difference.  Accept the label of foolishness for the message of the cross, not because you exhibit behavior found in the above “signs” of craziness.

Is this what the true bride of Christ looks like or is this some doppelganger infiltrating the ranks of Christendom?  As much as I would like to lay the blame on an evil twin, scripture gives us picture of what we look like and it’s messy.  Throughout scripture the church is compared to a prostitute.  Our story is more  desperate than we’d like to admit.  This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to give up and give into our sin nature as scripture also gives us a picture of what we should strive to look like.  We will continually fall short of the goal, but his grace gifted to us is what gives life to the striving.  We have been redeemed.  Purchased for a price.  Bought and freed from the bounds of sin, death, and the devil.  Our groom is the text-book example of loving and puts up with our garbage as he continues to strengthen and encourage our faith in him through word and sacrament.  So yes we have many problems and need counseling. Yet, even though we are trapped in these earthen vessels, we can look forward with faith, hope and love to our wedding day when we are finally united with our groom who gave it all for us so that we can have freedom in him.  We are the treasure in the field.

Sacraments For Those Who Don’t Believe In Sacraments

One of the hardest concepts for me to grasp before entering confessional Lutheran fellowship was sacramental theology. Coming from a non sacramental background, the act of viewing the Lord’s Supper and baptism as more than symbols were not only foreign, but were too close to Rome for my liking. My most fundamental friends and family would surely think I had gone off the deep end of Christianity and fallen into the cold embrace of works righteousness. Nevertheless, after several years of careful study, I concluded that sacramental theology as understood in the confessional Lutheran tradition was in-fact scriptural. My adherence to Lutheran sacramental theology has indeed been a sticking point concerning many conversations with my non-Lutheran friends and family. While I can certainly understand this, I find it ironic that those who deny the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper by turning them into symbolic ordinances, have actually inadvertently invented sacraments of their own design.

Let me explain.

Sacraments are actions instituted by Jesus and combine a promise in God’s Word with a physical element. Therefore sacraments are simply means to receive the promises of God as directed by scripture. This gives the church a standard for how  Christians are to interact with God and receive His promises. Alternatively, when the sacraments are removed from the Christian life, interaction with Jesus is greatly reduced as a result. Jesus is only where He has promised to be. We aren’t in the position to make up rules concerning when and where Jesus shows up. For the church, Jesus has promised to show up in His word, in the waters of Holy Baptism and in the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper. These aren’t mere memorials or symbols, but real receptive interaction with Jesus. Thus even when the sacraments are stripped of their purpose and efficacy, the desire to interact with Jesus and receive His promises remain. For the Christian, this desire will not subside. In response to this need, “new” sacraments are created to fill the void and insinuate tangible interaction. These “new” sacraments may not be called sacraments, but I can assure they are made to function in like manner. Since baptism and the Lord’s Supper are viewed as mere ordinances and thus not efficacious, something has to fill the void that remains. This void is filled through the worship music experience, conversational prayer, and the altar call.

These are the new sacraments.

These are where the modern church wants to find God.

This is not good news because these false “sacraments” will lead to the wrong destination.  Jesus has revealed where He can be found.  Any directions apart from His instruction will lead to an undesired destination.  When true sacraments are scrapped the resulting “false” sacraments will always lead one back to themselves. This is a destination that all should be weary of treading.

When one is lost in the worship experience the desire is always to recreate the last experience and wonder why when it doesn’t happen?

When one attempts to turn prayer into a conversation and expects to receive directives and/or assurance whether quietly or audibly, how does one truly discern between the conscience and God or worse yet, what happens when there is nothing?

When one attempts to “do business with God” during the latest altar call, what happens when they really, really, really commit to do better this time only to fail yet again, or worse yet what happens when they realize they’ve turned repentance into a work?

The problem with these false sacraments is that not only do they fail to give the Christian what they need, which is Jesus, but ultimately leave the door open for numerous false teachings by direct revelation which infiltrate the church through the means of desired experience instead of revealed absolute truth as found in scripture. Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller once said, “Take away the temple and Judaism becomes Pharisee-ism. Take away the sacraments and Christianity becomes Evangelicalism.”  This may seem harsh, but when one understands the gravity of this statement, it is sadly not a stretch.

 

Christian Baptism Series – Part 3 – John & His Baptism of Repentance

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Who is John the Baptist and what was the purpose of his baptism?
When introduced to John the Baptist in the beginning of the gospels, the role he plays is essential to defining both what baptism is and who Jesus is. In the beginning of the Matthew (Chapter 3) and John’s (Chapter 2) gospel accounts it is revealed that the Pharisees send messengers to inquire about John the Baptist to discern who he claims to be and why he is baptizing. They are curious as to whether he is the Christ, Elijah or the (faithful) Prophet (John 1:19-22). He denies each of these titles and answers by simply quoting Isaiah 40:3 saying that he is a “voice crying out in the wilderness…” and points them to the one that will come after him whose “sandals he is unworthy to untie.” The Jews were used to their many forms of purification as we studied earlier, so while the act of purification was not foreign to them, the language used along with the massive number of recipients was. This was the basis for the Pharisees questioning. So what’s the difference between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28:19? Several times in scripture, John’s baptism is called a “baptism of repentance” (Luke 3:3, Mark 1:4, Acts 19:4) and this title is specific to John.

What does this mean?

Is it different than Jesus’ baptismal commission in Matthew 28:19?

To understand this, the person of John the Baptist, his purpose and work, must be understood. Scripture lays this out in detail.  Isaiah 40:3 is where this study begins.

“A voice cries: Prepare ye the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Traditionally, before the New Testament period, Isaiah 40:3 was viewed as fulfilled when the remnant of Judah returned from Babylonian captivity. The desert highway was the route of grace for those who remained faithful.  Barry G. Webb, in his commentary on Isaiah, has a more astute observation when he says…

“Although there was a partial return from exile in the years following 539 B.C., spiritually the exile continued until the Messiah came. Only he could solve the deep, underlying problem.”

This is actually at the heart of the often misquoted Jeremiah chapter 29.  Jeremiah has prophesied that Babylon will conquer Jerusalem but God will save for himself a remnant that will be exiled to Babylon. Chapter 29 is a letter of comfort to these exiles outlining the promises, hope and blessings they have and will be given for staying faithful.  The promises include both spiritual and temporal blessings. The temporal blessings were fulfilled when the remnant returned from exile, but the spiritual blessings of hope and a future were still yet to be fulfilled.  These blessings would be met in the person and work of the coming Messiah.

Malachi 3:1 says…

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

This is the same verse that is quoted in Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27. Notice there is a distinction between the “messenger” who prepares the way (John) and the “messenger of the covenant” (Jesus). Therefore, looking through these lenses, John’s ministry is fully preparatory for the entrance of Christ. This means that in all things John is preparing, which includes baptism. John’s baptism of repentance, in light of Isaiah 40:3, is a call for Israel to return from their spiritual exile. Thus John’s baptism of repentance is for Israel alone and fully efficacious for the remission of their sins. Therefore, the Pharisees were looking for Elijah to return in the flesh as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Malachi 4:5 and thus sent messengers to ask if this was who John claimed to be.  Malachi 4:5 says…

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

John denies this claim which was true.  He was not Elijah in the flesh but John who was naturally born of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  That being said, how does this work in light of Matthew 17:10-13 where Jesus refers to John the Baptist as Elijah?  Jesus was simply stating that John was a type of Elijah as he was the last prophet before Jesus Christ.  All previous prophets pointed forward to Christ and the same is true for John, only in addition to pointing to his coming, he was also Jesus’ contemporary and thus prepares the way for him. The idea of preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry begins with Johns baptism of repentance.  John’s preparatory baptism merges into Jesus’ ministry in John 3:26 and 4:1-2 when Jesus’ disciples begin to baptize alongside John. John’s view of this accompaniment is that he must decrease and Jesus must increase. R.C.H. Lenski puts it this way in his commentary on Matthew…

“In essence and efficacy both were the same. The Baptist’s was on the level of the revelation given at that time; that of Jesus on the level of his completed work. That of the Baptist made followers of the Christ about to come; That of Jesus followers of the Christ who had come. Both bestowed forgiveness; the one the forgiveness about to be wrought; the other the forgiveness that had been wrought. Thus the baptism of John was preparatory for Israel alone, Christ’s permanent for all nations. And only in this way that one made ready for and then gave way to the other.”

Therefore the only real difference between John’s preparatory baptism and Jesus’ is whom it is directed toward. John’s is for Israel and Jesus’ is for everyone. I would also like to address some confusion concerning John’s baptism as seen in Acts 19. When Paul arrives in Ephesus, he discovers some disciples who knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. Paul subsequently asks in whom they were baptized? They reply into John’s baptism. This appears to contradictory. The apostles and Apollos were also baptized into John’s baptism and it was fully efficacious not warranting a “re-baptism.” Paul makes sure to point out why their baptism wasn’t real; lack of knowledge of the work of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. These disciples were not familiar with Jesus nor had they heard of, let alone received the Holy Spirit in their baptism. This means that no baptism really took place. Paul lays hands on them and baptizes them in the triune name of God (in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit); which is how the Lord Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19. The New Bible Commentary has a solid explanation…

“These people had received a baptism of repentance, which was in itself a good thing, but unlike Apollos (Acts 18:25), they did not seem to know anything about Jesus. We are not told that Apollos needed to be rebaptized (Priscilla and Aquila certainly would have been able to baptize them, if Ananias could baptize Paul, Acts 9:17-19). The probable difference was that Apollos knew about and trusted in the Messiah (having accurate, if incomplete knowledge about him, Acts 18:25-26) and saw his baptism in connection with that faith, whereas for these disciples, the baptism was merely a pledge of good behavior. They still needed to be baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.”

What is Repentance?

Now that the similarities and differences between John’s and Jesus’ disciples baptism have been established, it is important to look at and understand repentance as defined by scripture. These days, it seems common thought amongst Christians that repentance is something that the individual does in and of themselves. In this modern definition, I do the initial work and God takes care of the rest (by forgiving my sin). This is 180 degrees backwards from what scripture presents. Repentance is a gift that we cannot come to apart from God’s work. In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

This is where we go to truly understand repentance. The shepherd in the parable is Jesus and we are the sheep. A sheep is lost, representing us, and the shepherd does all the work to find the sheep, then puts the sheep on his shoulders, rejoices and carries him back home. Notice that Jesus doesn’t make the sheep walk back on his own. This is purposeful. This shows that we do absolutely none of the work as we are only receptive of the life saving gift. In verse 7, Jesus concludes by saying that this parable is a picture of repentance. Repentance is Jesus finding us and carrying us home, therefore, it is not something we do. The only role we play in the story is that of getting ourselves lost, and when found, agreeing with Christ that we are indeed lost thus we cooperate by returning with him.  Repentance is gifted agreeance with Christ.  Repentance acknowledges that our sin is indeed sin and is in opposition to the will of God and thus receives forgiveness of sins as a gift given from Christ’s atoning work on the cross.

Summary thus far

In effect, John’s baptism is one of repentance, specifically for Israel and Christ’s baptism is one of repentance for all nations. John’s baptism calls the Jews from their spiritual exile while Jesus’ baptism expands the call to all nations. Both baptisms are fully efficacious and do precisely what scripture says they do; forgive sin.  Neither baptism requires any work of our own because they both are 100% Christ’s work. In Mark 2, when the paralytic is lowered through the roof, Jesus first forgives the mans sin.  The Pharisees respond in verse 7 by saying…

“Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

The Pharisees were right in saying that only God can forgive sin.  By doing this Jesus claims His divinity and then proves it by healing the man’s temporal ailment allowing him to walk.  Baptism, as described in scripture is no different.  There are many passages that connect baptism to the forgiveness of sins.  These verses will be investigated in the upcoming installments of this study on baptism.  Before moving on, let’s look back to what was learned in week 1 of this study to begin to connect the Old Testament with the New Testament.  In week 1 of this study, several examples of “means and promise” were studied.  For the priest, washing feet and hands in the bronze basin before entering the tent of meeting was efficacious as it saved him from certain death.  For the person in contact with the deceased, washing on the 3rd and 7th day was efficacious in allowing him to return to the community.  This same “means and promise” purifies the leper as well as the scapegoat handler.  In like manner, the New/Old Testament allegories (The flood narrative and the crossing of the Red Sea) point to baptism as accomplishing salvation.  The Ezekiel prophecy in Chapter 36:24-27  says…

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

This prophecy also speaks of “means and promise.”  The means is sprinkling with water and the promise is cleanliness, a new heart of flesh and gifting of the Holy Spirit.  This prophecy points forward to both John’s baptism of repentance and Jesus’ baptism for the forgiveness of sins (and gifting of the Holy Spirit) as Jesus’ baptism engulfs John’s and expands it to all.  There is no racial restriction. There is no cultural restriction. There is no gender restriction. There is no positional restriction.

There is no age restriction.

This statement of inclusion has been a topic of much debate in “modern” times.  I am well aware of there being no verse that clearly states “baptism is for infants.” However, using this same poor hermeneutical principle, a case could be made that communion isn’t for women as there is no place in the Bible that records a woman taking communion, or where it says that women can take communion. We know this to be hogwash, but it goes a long way in making the point as I am equally aware of zero verses that restrict baptism from infants. Simply, the arguments used to validate women taking the Lord’s Supper are the same arguments historically used for affirming infant baptism. We cannot say this argument can be used for women and communion but not for baptism and infants. Matthew 28:19 says that we are to baptize all nations; children and infants are included in all nations. They are part of the census. They are counted. Galatians 3:28-29 states…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

These verses are solely salvivic. They clearly state there is no division or distinction in Christ’s salvation plan. I understand that it does not specifically say “elderly or infant”, nor does it have to. Any of the distinctions made in the verse could be infant or elderly. The purpose of the list is the complete inclusiveness of Christ. If Paul had added a disclaimer excluding “infants” it would not be inclusive, but exclusive. Remember in Ephesians 1:4, Paul says that…

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

This statement is as inclusive as Galatians 3:28-29. If God chooses us, what does age have to do with anything? It is as irrelevant as our color, gender or social status. In addition, infants are in need of what baptism offers.  Job 15:14, Psalm 51:5, John 3:6, Ephesians 2:3 and Romans 5:12 show that all are born under the curse of sin.  No one is born good or innocent.  In addition to believing what scripture says about this, there is also temporal proof.  The proof is that infants die.  Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.  Therefore, with ample proof that all are born under the verdict of guilty, including infants, the reality of the necessity for baptism of all ages is presented.  This will be revisited and expanded upon in Parts 5 and 6 of this study. In the meantime, stay tuned for next weeks installment “Part 4 – Why was Jesus baptized?”

Click here for “Christian Baptism Series – Part 4 – Why was Jesus Baptized”

Click here for “Christian Baptism Series – Part 2 – Jewish Rites of Purification & Pharisaical Law”

Can I Lose My Salvation?

Navel Gazer Question Mark

I hate hearing it.

Not because it’s altogether wrong, but because it’s damaging.  It insinuates a contradiction.  A true life oxymoron.

I hate hearing the question “Can I lose my salvation?”

It’s like nails on a chalkboard.  It’s a contradiction because it insinuates that it can be done apart from our will.  When I lose something, I’m always upset about it because I never wanted to lose it in the first place.

I currently find myself in the midst of several home improvement projects.  My house is a disaster area.  In the mix of attempting to work from home, advise contractors and field questions from my wife; I lost my car keys.  Did I want to lose them? Not at all.  Did I reject that the car keys were effective in starting my car or unlocking my front door?  No.  I simply lost them.  The next reasonable question is why did I lose them? On the most simplistic level, I lost them because I am a sinful fallen creature that is encapsulated in this body of flesh until death or Christ’s return. I lost them because I’m forgetful. I lost them because my mind wanders.

I lost them because they were mine to lose.

This begs a rather large question.  Do we own Christ or does Christ own us?  Let’s go to scripture for answers.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Corinthians 12:27 – Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it

John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

These passages makes it very clear that we are the possession of Jesus Christ; not the other way around.  In addition to these verses, there are many more that speak of our new position in Christ as children of God.  Simply put, that is more evidence that we are His possession.  Therefore, in my case, I lost my keys not because I wanted to, but because I am a sinful fallen creature AND because they were mine to lose.  Christ Jesus on the other hand is not sinful nor is he a creature.  He is the one and only God-Man who is the Second Person of the Trinity and is of the same substance as the God the Father.  Therefore Jesus can never lose me.  His perfection won’t allow it.  We are secure in Christ.

This opens a whole new can of worms.

I can hear the premature victory chants from the Calvinists alongside feigning shouts from the synergists.

My encouragement is to bear with me because we’ve only just begun.

If you look back to the beginning of this post, you will see that my issue was with wording.  This is why proper phrasing is key. The phrase “lose your salvation” completely irks me primarily because it is not possible for anyone to lose their salvation.  However, I do think it is possible to forfeit your salvation.   There is an important difference between lose and forfeit.

Webster defines lose as “to be unable to find, to fail to win or to fail to keep or hold (something wanted or valued).”

Webster defines forfeit as “something that is lost or given up as punishment or because of a rule or law.”

In order to lose something, one must be in possession of it.  I have already established evidence that Jesus Christ is the one in possession of our salvation and thus cannot lose it because of His perfection.  On the contrary, one who receives a possession from the possessor has the right to forfeit the rights and privileges that are being given from the possessor. You don’t have to be in possession to forfeit or give up your rights to the possession.  Therefore, speaking directly of salvation, Christ is the possessor of salvation and whether you initially forfeit those rights in unbelief or you lay hold of salvivic rights through faith in Jesus and then forfeit them at some point later (Ephesians 2:8 states that faith is also a gift, and thus can be forfeited) the right to forfeit is freely given to all as is defined by the term forfeit. The second part of the definition states that forfeit occurs by punishment of a rule of law.  This also works perfectly within the constraints of biblical reason.  If the gift of salvation is passively received through faith in Jesus, then active rejection of the gift through unbelief obtains the wage we earned which is punishable by separation from God in hell since the law demands perfection (James 2:10).  So when salvation in Jesus is forfeited through unbelief, punishment in eternal hell is earned.  This presents two distinct categories of people who actively forfeit the gift by grace through faith won by Jesus upon the cross; those who always will reject the gift of faith and those who passively receive the gift of grace through faith and eventually actively reject through unbelief. Both categories forfeit the free gift that is offered.  The first category containing those who always reject faith and live in unbelief thus forfeiting their salvation is generally accepted as a normative doctrine amongst most denominations within the church catholic.  The second category is someone who comes to faith in Jesus and eventually forfeits said faith and becomes apostate. Whether this category is possible is often debated between brethren.  The bible is clear that though it is uncommon, the possibility does exist. The following verses provide clear evidence for this position.

Hebrews 10:19-39Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 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. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

This Hebrews passage is crystal clear in its warning to the church.  The person described in this passage has “received knowledge of the truth.”  The phrase itself forces the idea that the knowledge received was true to the person who received it.  If the person did not agree with the knowledge they received they would not label it as truth therefore the person receiving the knowledge must have agreed at one point that what is being received is true or the verse completely falls apart.  A few verses later in this passage the same person is labeled as being “sanctified” (meaning made holy) and then trampling Jesus underfoot.  It was already made abundantly clear in verse 26 that there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins for the this person.  Several verses later the writer of Hebrews warns the reader to not “throw away their confidence” in like fashion.  Why would the writer of Hebrews give an example of a sanctified believer that received knowledge of the truth and turned from that through rejection of Jesus by trampling Him underfoot through deliberate sin thus nullifying the forgiveness of sins that was gifted through the original reception of the knowledge of truth AND THEN warn of us not to do the same?  If falling away isn’t a possibility, this passage would simply be a lesson in futility. The Hebrews passage is abundantly clear and thus doesn’t need further explanation. The only reason one would attempt to twist these verses to mean anything other than what they clearly state would be to form them into a doctrine of human creation.

John 15:1-11 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15 provides further evidence concerning real possibility of forfeiting salvation.  This is the famous passage about Jesus being the vine and Christians playing the part of the branches.  Verse 5 tells us that if anyone doesn’t abide in Jesus, the true vine, they will be cut off and thrown into the fire.  To be in the vine is to be in Christ.  Jesus gives the answer on how to stay in the vine.  A person stays in the vine by abiding in Christ. A couple verses later, Jesus says that we abide by loving Him and we love him if we keep his commandments.  The Greek word for “keep” is “tereo” which does in fact mean keep, however, not in the sense that it is most often understood.  “Tereo” means keep-in-tact or guard. We keep Jesus’ commandments in tact when we believe that they are right and true.  We guard them against false teaching because they are right and true.  Therefore we keep His commandments by trusting in Him, i.e. faith.  Once again, faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins receives the promise of forgiveness of sins while unbelief forfeits the gift that is offered.  One cannot be cut from the vine if they were not or were never in the vine to begin with.  The argument that those who are apostate were never really saved doesn’t hold water because if they never had faith, they would have never been in the vine in the first place.

These two passages are clear texts that show that we must be on guard against apostasy (forfeiting our salvation).  Apostasy is always the result of unbelief expressed through continual, unrepentant sin.  One doesn’t accidentally fall into apostasy as it is a premeditated active exchange of forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ for the pleasures of this world through temporal desire for instantaneous satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that when someone sins they are apostate or if someone fails to repent of each and every sin they have forfeited their salvation.  It simply means that if someone comes to a place where they find themselves consistently choosing /living in sin and when confronted with that sin, has no contrition, remorse or desire to repent, then forfeiture of salvation has occurred.  There is still hope for these people (as long as they have breath in them) that through the hearing of the word, God could bring them back to repentant faith in Him.

(Side Note:  I am aware that Hebrews 6:4-8 states that is impossible for anyone who has ” been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” to be restored again after falling away.  I wholeheartedly agree with this passage as it is scripture and I readily confess that all scripture is God breathed.  I’d like to take a moment to harmonize this passage with my thoughts pertaining to hope for those who have fallen away.  What is exposed in this passage is “blasphemy of the Spirit” also known as the unpardonable sin.  This sin is also discussed in Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29 and Luke 12:10. The writer of Hebrews paints a vivid picture of one who truly believes and experiences the complete fullness of the Christian life with great understanding and then falls away, rejecting all that they factually know to be true (we are not dealing with standard unbelief, but true belief that results in them rejecting all they know be true).  Since we do not know the heart of those we minister too, we cannot go forward with the attitude that all who have fallen away fit this description of having blasphemed the Spirit, therefore we must treat all as if there is hope.  I have actually met some people who thought they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit and were wrecked thinking that they were hopeless.  Their contrition proves their heart has not completely hardened (Acts 28:27).  I initially considered removing the statement concerning hope for those who have fallen away out of the post as to avoid confusing people or starting a debate, but I decided to leave it as a way to give hope to those who may have thought they unintentionally committed blasphemy of the Spirit.  After thinking about it i decided it would be better to add this side note for clarification.)

The argument put forth in this post is why I get worked up when I hear of someone terrified of losing their salvation and equally upset when they believe they are eternally preserved by the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.  You see, either end of this spectrum will bring you doubt instead of comfort. Either end of this spectrum forces you to look within yourself to determine if you have either lost your salvation or to answer internal doubts about whether you are indeed elect (or not).  Whenever we look to ourselves for proof of salvation, we take our eyes off of Jesus Christ, the possessor of our salvation who will never lose or forfeit our salvation because of his perfection.  In the gospels of Matthew and Mark when Peter walks upon the water to meet Jesus, he only begins to sink when he takes his eyes off of Jesus.  Likewise, looking to ourselves takes our eyes off of Jesus which causes us to sink into the miry depths of depression and soul searching while leaving us in constant limbo as we continually question our salvation.  Both the Calvinist position of perseverance of the saints and the synergist position of losing your salvation are two sides of the same coin and the effects are equally damning to any confidence that we have in Jesus Christ.  They both draw you away from Jesus by turning your eyes from His promises to introspective mind games of self doubt and insecurity. It’s my encouragement for you to stop looking in the mirror.  Stop focusing on yourself so much because ultimately it’s not about you; it’s about what Jesus Christ has done for you.  That should be the focus of your attention.  Rest in his perfection.