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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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salvation

Crowns In Heaven-How’s That Work?

This post also has run several times, but ties in nicely with the earlier post on the Eternal Security of the Believer.

crown

In the church I attend, another fellow and I are teaching a class that, week by week, is going over the the Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association. We are currently in our section on the Resurrection of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Saints. During the course of our discussion of the Resurrection of the Saints, we began discussing the Judgment Seat of Christ we will face at that time. We also got into a discussion about the Crowns we can receive and how the whole concept of Crowns plays out in the Bible.

I have to be honest, the question caught me flat footed, so to speak. There are two reasons for that: One, I simply had not given much thought or study to the matter; two, I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination.  I am not seminary trained; in fact, other than a three year program called Faith Bible Institute, I have zero formal Bible training.

What is the point of all that? Well, it means there is a bunch of stuff I don’t know, and it means there is a bunch of stuff I have difficulty learning and subsequently explaining. So, I have studied, prayed and meditated on this issue and am going to do my best to present an answer which makes sense. As I have said before, I may be wrong. If I am, we can sort it out in Heaven.

We will all be judged

The Bible is quite clear in teaching that every single human who has ever lived will be judged at some point in time. Here we are going to briefly discuss the judgment of Believers, which will take place at the Bema, or the Judgment Seat of Christ. We need to clarify one thing quickly before we dive into this topic. The Judgment Seat of Christ is not a judgment to determine whether we are admitted into Heaven or cast into Hell; believers have made that particular decision during their lives here on Earth.

1 John 2:2 teaches us that the determination of that was made by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and our faith in Him, John 3:16. Romans 8:1 teaches us that we will never be condemned for those sins.

We will face the Judgment Seat, then, not to determine where we will spend eternity, but to determine and reward us for the quality of our works on Jesus’ behalf while here in this life. At the Judgment Seat, we will give an account of our lives to Jesus, and will be rewarded(or not rewarded) for our works, not judged for our sins. The Judgment Seat is mentioned a couple of times in Scripture, and the context of the passages makes it clear this is not a condemnation/salvation judgment.

Romans 14:10-12 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

The word for Judgment Seat, Bema, is used a couple of ways in the New Testament. One way was in the sense of the place from which Pontius Pilate would have been when he pronounced sentence on Jesus in Matthew 27:19 and John 19:13. Another sense in which the word was used was then sense in which it appeared in athletic competitions of the time. Victorious athletes would stand on a raised platform, called a Bema, and receive their reward for their winning performances. What would the winning athletes receive on the Bema? They would receive a wreath, or crown, placed on their head as a symbol of their victory. In an interesting note, the winning athletes not only were rewarded for victory, but the way they won was analyzed to insure they had followed the rules in obtaining that win! We see this illustrated in 2 Timothy 2:5.

Three things seem relevant here. One, context indicates that our Bema is for reward and not punishment. Two, Paul often compared the Christian life to an athletic competition, so the use of Bema as that seems to fit. Finally, the people he wrote to in Corinth would have understood both usages of the word, as both types were present in the city of Corinth. The use of Judgment Seat as a reward for faithful service seems to mesh right in with our topic of Crowns, as we will see later.

What Crowns can we get?

There seem to be five crowns spoken of in The Bible, and we will review them each here. We will also cover what it seems we have to do in order to be presented with those crowns. This all is a matter of some interpretation, so we won’t be dogmatic about it.

The Crown of Victory, or the Imperishable Crown.  We see this in

1 Corinthians 9:24,25  Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

What is this crown for? Very likely it is for those who have tried live a temperate life. This would be those who have tried to live a life not of the flesh and the world, but focused on Holy things. This may be for those who opted to not lay up their treasure on Earth, but in Heaven, Matthew 6:19. What Peter addressed in 1 Peter 3:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,”

The Crown of Rejoicing.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Some refer to this as the Soul Winners crown, as Paul seems to  be rejoicing over the souls he saw saved during his life.  Aren’t we fortunate that God will judge us for our efforts and not our success? All of us can get this crown, not just those who see thousands saved!

The Crown of Righteousness

2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

We can look at righteousness in a couple of ways. We all receive imputed righteousness, this being the instantaneous righteousness we receive at the moment of our salvation; that is the moment when our sins no longer matter, and we are declared righteous in the eyes of God due to the payment Jesus Christ made on our behalf. We can also look at it in terms of the sanctified righteousness which represents the lifelong work God performs in us to make us righteous and Holy as a way of life. This crown may represent our transition from striving for righteousness to that eternal state where that is all we will ever know.

The Crown of Glory

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Some think this is a reference to a crown which will be given to those who served as overseers, or pastors and deacons in this earth. The verses prior to that could possibly indicate that to be true. If so, it could meant that those who have faithfully served will finally get the reward they deserve, while those who served with less than honorable intentions will have their crown withheld.

The Crown of Life

Revelation 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

James tells us in James 1:12, that the Crown of Life is for “them that love Him.” How do we show we love God?

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

This is possibly for those who have suffered tribulation and perhaps even martyrdom for the Love of God. It may even be simply for those who have loved God, i.e the saved. Either way it is for those who have stayed steadfast in their love for God through all the various trials and tribulations this life has to offer.

Are our Crowns Real? And what will we do with them?

Before we move on, let’s look at one last thought. All of our works, not just the ones the fit into some category we put them in will be evaluated.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

All that we do will be analyzed by God, for the quality and intent with which it was done. This leads us to the question of whether the crowns are real or figurative.

The Bible never once says they are figurative. Like most things we find in the Bible, we usually cannot go wrong if we simply take it the way it reads. We may very well have real crowns placed on our heads at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

On the other hand, Paul was noted for his comparing of life to an athletic contest, and the crowns may be an analogy based upon that. I think one could lean that direction and not be accused of  “spiritualizing” the Word of God.

What will we do with our crowns, real or figurative?

Revelation 4:10,11 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

It is generally accepted that if we do receive real Crowns in Heaven, we will follow the example above and cast them at Jesus feet, for they were given by Him. We only had the ability to earn them based on the power He gave us in the first place. Like all that we do, these crowns will be eternally for the honor and glory of Almighty God and not for us anyway.

Even if the crowns are figurative, the same scenario applies. All that we are here on Earth for, and all that we will be in Heaven eternally for, is simply for the honor and Glory of Him. All the honor and glory and power is due Him, for He created all things, and all things were created for Him and His pleasure.

In closing, the question has to be asked: Will you even be at the Judgment Seat of Christ? There are two judgments taught in the Bible. The one we have discussed is only for those who belong to Jesus Christ. The remaining people, alive and dead will also be resurrected to face a judgment. It also will not be a judgment to decide Heaven or hell. We make that choice only while living. Here, non believers will be judged not for their works, but for the severity of their sins; then all who face this judgment will be eternally cast into the Lake of Fire.

Do you know which judgment you will face? Have you come to understand that you are a sinner, condemned already in the eyes of God? Are you willing to repent and turn away from that sin? Do you understand that a penalty must be paid, but that Jesus Christ has already paid it on your behalf? His payment is a gift from God to you. All you have to do is believe, through faith, that you deserve to pay, that Jesus paid it for you, that He died and rose in three days to conquer your sin and death. Believe that and accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord and you, too, can be at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Once Saved Always Saved?

I have run this particular post several times, and no doubt will more times as the need presents and the Holy Spirit leads. It’s longish, but is a detailed treatment of a vital subject.

The question is often asked: Can a person, once saved, ever lose their salvation? The short answer is: NO. The Bible clearly and unequivocally teaches that a person who was truly saved and converted is eternally secure in that salvation and will never lose it. This is referred to as the Eternal Security of the Believer, Perseverance of the Saints or “Once saved always saved.”

We are going to discuss a lot of material here, so this will be a longish post. We will look at the key passages that support this doctrine; we will look at how Security of the Believer flows naturally from other things we know about Salvation; we will look at at some arguments made against the doctrine and finally we will look at why proper understanding of our security in Jesus Christ matters so much.

First, let’s look at some Scriptures which teach us about the Eternal Security of the Believer.

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

1 Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Simply tossing around Bible verses does not necessarily prove anything; out of the proper context, any verse can be used for most any proof. We always have to make sure we quote verses in the full context in which they appear. That would include the context of their chapter as well as the overall story of the Bible. They must be placed in the proper linguistic, historical and cultural context to be fully understood. Simply placing the above verses in the context of things we learn elsewhere in the Bible, it is clear that they teach that one’s salvation can never be lost.

If we look at the security of the believer in terms of why we needed to be saved in the first place, it simply makes no sense to propose we could lose our salvation once it is ours. Remember, we do not need to just be saved from our big sins, or our really heinous sins; we need salvation for all of them big or small. God is perfect and Holy, we are imperfect and sinful. Because God is perfect, any imperfection separates us from Him. We owe a penalty for our sin, big or small, which we can only pay by our death. Read the post on that subject here.  If we could lose our salvation for some sin, then the question immediately comes up: for exactly WHAT sin or sins could we lose it? The obvious answer is easy to come up with. Any sin separated us from God in the first place. If we could lose our salvation for some sin, then likewise any sin would take it from us.

Remember Romans 6:23? “The wages of sin is death .” That statement is not graded on a curve. It is all inclusive for all sin. The payment is due from each of us. And it’s not paid on the installment plan. This penalty is either paid, or it’s not. If one has not accepted Jesus’ payment for it, then it is not paid. However, of one has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, then it is paid.

We also understand that our salvation is by Grace and not by works. We know that we do not make even the smallest contribution to the obtaining of our salvation. We discussed that quite fully in this post.

If our salvation is 100 percent obtained by grace, then it is also 100 percent maintained by grace. If no works of any sort help us attain salvation, then conversely and obviously, “bad” works, lack of works or substandard works could not possibly cost us that salvation, right? If we don’t work to get it, then why would we have to work to keep it? There are substantial numbers of people who would agree that initially, salvation is by grace but that we must then maintain it by our works.

If Salvation did have to be maintained by works, then the immediate question is:  Exactly WHAT are the works requirements that must be met  in order to keep it? It is the same problem as determining exactly what sin could cost us our salvation. There is simply no list of rules given anywhere is Scripture. Actually, there is a list and it is quite simple. Any sin separates us from God, and no works restore us. Anything else is just what we, humans, have added. We are going to dive into that topic later in this post.

The Apostle Paul addressed that very mindset in Galatians 3:3 “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”  Paul informed us in that verse, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that it is simply foolishness to think that we were saved by Grace but needed to maintain it by works.

Perhaps the biggest argument against the Doctrine of Eternal Security is that it somehow becomes “a license to sin.” In other words, one can become saved and then go out in the world and do whatever one chooses with no consequence. After all, one’s sins past, present and future are all forgiven.  Technically, that is a true statement. Technically a truly saved person, no matter how far they might backslide, is still forgiven and heaven bound.

Sadly and to the discredit of churches today, we do much to foster this skepticism about the Doctrine of Eternal Security. We have pews full of people who only darken the doors of a church for an hour on Sunday morning, then barrel back to the outside world and conduct themselves just like, or worse than, the rest of the world.  This same group of people justifies their behavior by resting on some claim that they are saved, so..”I’m all good, I’m saved and heaven bound. Jesus has forgiven me so it’s cool.” This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.  Salvation is not about getting a ticket to heaven punched. God truly, deeply loves us and offers us the gift of salvation, but salvation is not about us!  Read my post on just who worship is for and why we are saved here.

A quick summary is in order here. God was not sitting around in Heaven lonely one day and decided to create humanity to alleviate His loneliness. God is self existent and self sufficient and has no need for us whatsoever. God does not save us so that He can fill some empty void in His existence. We were only created for His honor and glory in the first place. In fact, the entire plan of redemption formed before the beginning of time was simply to declare God’s glory to the universe.

The point of this is God does not save us “for” us. He saves us for a purpose and a reason, and the reason is not us.  The most notable Bible passage on salvation based on grace not works is of course Ephesians 2:8,9. Where people go wrong, however, is they stop there.  Because right after God makes it clear through the Apostle Paul that works don’t save us, He goes on to tell they whys of our salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

That’s just a start. There are numerous passages that teach us the a true saving faith will produce fruit(works). These are merely a few.

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22.23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

1 John 3:6-9 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

The Apostle Paul answered the question about Eternal Security being a permit to sin very directly in Romans 6:15-23. This question is far from a new one.

Romans 6:15-23 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Clearly, salvation is not a permit to sin at will. God said that in His Word. Also, clearly, God has expectations of us once we are saved.

Not only does The Bible teach that grace and security are not a permit to sin, but Christians should keep in mind that we all face a judgment one day.  Understand clearly that a truly saved person will never face judgment for their sins; the issue of Heaven and Hell is decided only in this life. Believers will, however, be judged at some point in time for how they lived their lives for Jesus Christ while they were alive. The ultimate goal of every believer at the Judgment should be to hear the same words the  good steward heard in the Parable of the Talents which Jesus told, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Let’s take a look at this judgement believers face. We learn in Romans 14:10-12 as Paul wrote to the Roman believers, that we will all stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and account for how we lived our lives for him. Since we aren’t going to be judged for our sins what then is the purpose of this judgment? The judgment believers face is to determine our rewards we will receive for the things we have done for Jesus while living. One of the best descriptions of what will happen can be found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17

What we receive are crowns for various services we have rendered on behalf of Jesus Christ during our lives. Descriptions of these can be found in several places in Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10.

Not only do saved believers face a judgment later for their works, but we also need to understand that we do not necessarily escaped unscathed in this life for the things we do wrong. We escape the eternal punishment for our sins due to our salvation, but not the earthly consequences for them. The things we do on this Earth affect our lives on this Earth.

God Himself may discipline us. Notice the difference between punishment and discipline. We are free from the eternal punishment for our sins: past, present and future. Like a good parent, however, God will chastise and discipline us in order to bring us back in line with His desire for our lives.

Hebrews 12:6-8 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.   If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

God disciplines us as His children; if fact, if He does not discipline us then we are not actually His!

Sin has earthly consequences which are not necessarily handed out by God, but just the natural outflow of our actions. King David is one of the finest examples of actions and consequences we can find anywhere in the Bible. Only a very few people would even try to make a case for David being unsaved; there is almost universal agreement that as we speak, David is in Heaven with The Lord. Yet, we all also know the truly terrible sins David committed at one point in his life. We all know the story of his adultery with Bathsheeba and his murder of her husband Uriah. David certainly was forgiven by God for those sins, but if one reads the full story of his Kingdom it is easy to see that the consequences of what David did set the stage for many things.

  • The rape of his daughter Tamar by her half brother Amnon and Amnons subsequent murder by Absalom. 2 Samuel 13
  • Absalom’s banishment from the house of David and partial restoration. 2 Samuel 14
  • Absalom’s later rebellion against David. 2 Samuel 15-19

Just a casual reading of this story and it is easy to draw the conclusion that David’s failure as both a father and husband led ultimately to some very serious consequences. One might even say that his other son Solomon behaved in some of the ways he did due to the example set by his father David.

To sum up the above, eternal security in our salvation is not a license to run out and sin all we want to. I heard a preacher say once, “Since I got saved I sin all I want to;” the audience grew silent and he then stated, “but I don’t want to.” Let’s recap quickly.

  • True saving faith and salvation will produce works, or fruit
  • We will all be judged for the quality of our works.
  • God will discipline and chastise us for our actions
  • We still face earthly consequences for the things we do

The whole idea that the Doctrine of Eternal Security is no more than a license to sin in probably the single biggest argument that is used to counter the doctrine. As we can see, the argument is simply not a valid one. Other than that, there are numerous Scripture verses used as “proof texts” to support the idea that we can lose our salvation. Several years ago, a family member had an interesting conversation with a person who believed one could lose their salvation. When challenged by the family member for some proof, the person in question quoted Job 1:21, saying “The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away!”  That may be the single most absurd argument for being able to lose salvation that has ever been spoken. Not all of these arguments are that absurd, however; some seem to make sense on the surface. Let’s look at a few. It will only be a few, as there are many.

Some scriptures that speak of earthly chastening are used to teach believers can lose their salvation.

1 Corinthians 11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Romans 13:2  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 

The word damnation in those verses is not referring to “anathema”, or death in Hell, but “krima”, referring to earthly judgment

There are those passages that refer to a believer being called home by God because of committing the sin unto death. This, in context, refers to physical and not spiritual death.  1 John 5:16 and 1 Corinthians 3:17 both refer to this.  The fornicator in 1 Corinthians 5 was in danger of committing it and the believers in Corinth participating in the Lord’s Supper unworthily and Annanais and Sapphira all committed it. Nothing in context suggest these were unsaved people, but people being called home by physical death so as not to ruin their testimonies.

Some verses dealing with evidence or proof of salvation are used to illustrate a person losing their salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

Colossians 1:22,23 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

1 John 2:3-5 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

James, in particular, is used to support this idea. But in the context of the overall concept of salvation not being by works, it is made clear that the above verses are referring only to the evidence of salvation.

Some verses used to show the possible loss of salvation simply refer to someone who never had it in the first place.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Some say that not those who say “Lord, Lord” enter heaven but only those who “doeth the will of my Father” enter heaven. In other words, works are needed to stay saved. Just note, however, what Jesus said. He said, “I never knew you.” To understand the full context of the above passage, it is necessary to read the entire passage in question. Read Matthew 7:15-23.  The overall context in the passage is referring to false prophets and teachers who ran around claiming to belong to Jesus, but in fact never had.

The above passages are but a few that seem, on the surface, to support the idea that a person can lose their salvation. Like all of our Bible interpretation efforts, we have to perform this one correctly. Context, language, history and culture all have to be considered when assuming a position or interpretati0n.  All of these things taken together, along with Scriptures supporting Eternal Security, clearly show that the Doctrine of Eternal Security of the Believer is, in fact, completely Biblical. Now, the only question remains is: Why is it so important?

The Doctrine of conditional salvation, or that one can lose their salvation, is a product of Satan himself. I am not saying that those who believe it are of Satan; I am saying the thought is from him. Why would I say such a thing? Allow me to briefly explain. First, let’s take a look at the following passage:

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

In that passage, Paul was speaking to saved believers. What he was passing along from God was that we are to put on our helmet, and that helmet is the helmet of Salvation. He simply meant that Satan desperately wants us to be in a constant state of doubting our salvation. Paul was teaching us not to be distracted by those doubts, but to live secure in the assurance of our status as reconciled children of God.

Why does Satan care? The basic reason is that if we rest assured that our salvation is secure, then we can move along to the work God really wants us to do.  If we spend our entire lives in a mad scramble to stay saved, then that is all we can do. I hate to sound repetitive, but it’s not about us! It is about our works done to honor and glorify God and not our efforts either to get saved or to stay saved.

As with works based salvation, works maintained salvation becomes about men rather than God. God has laid out the conditions that must be met for salvation: repentance toward God and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Any other rules are not God’s rules, they are man’s rules. Who makes any such list of rules and conditions necessary to maintain salvation? Some person, of course. When we follow rules set by man, we begin to abandon God’s guidelines as revealed in His Word. When we do that, we begin to follow men rather than God; worse, we begin to follow ourselves. And that is what got us into trouble in the first place way back in Genesis Chapter 3

Are you saved? If you are, rest assured that your salvation is secure for all eternity. Quit worrying about what you have to do to keep it, and get busy doing the works God has actually called you to do.

Are you lost? Understand that this security can belong to you as well. Admit you are a sinner. Agree with God that He is right and you are wrong. Turn from your sin. Believe that Jesus paid your due penalty on the cross, and accept Him as your Savior and Lord today. Then, pick up your cross and follow Him.

My Fight With God

This, I suppose, is a testimony. I have to say up front that I am not overall particularly comfortable with testimonies. Please allow me to explain. I think that, honestly, sometimes testimonies become more about the person telling it than what it is really about. Sometimes they become about the saved rather than the Savior. On the other hand, I have seen some wonderful, compelling, and moving testimonies in the blog world; additionally, I have never seen what I just described above. It has also been pointed out that a person’s testimony can provide a good way for non believers to see and understand the path a person took to come to faith. In that light, I will do my absolute best to keep the focus here where it belongs, and that is on the great God who saved me and the faithful witnesses who told me about Him. This may be somewhat longish and meandering, but my journey to faith was longish(45 years long) and meandering as well, so perhaps that fits.

I grew up in a Godless home in a supposedly very God filled geography. I grew up in Arkansas, dead center of the Bible belt. There are literally almost churches on every corner. My father fancied himself an agnostic and an intellectual. He never spoke in a hostile way towards religion; he simply never spoke of it at all. I only gleaned his belief system by reading journals of his after he died. My mother, on the other hand, was actually raised in a conservative, evangelical church. Despite that, she never talked about God in our home other than to say she would not make me attend church, but would allow me to make my own way in that area. As far as I know, we didn’t even have a Bible in our home for all the years I lived there. God was simply a non entity in my home growing up. On the other hand, my extended family was quite Christian. However, since we lived fairly far away, their influence on me was very minimal. In fact, for whatever reason, none of them ever really shared their faith with me as a youth. We lived mostly in the inner city during my youth, and for a very brief time I actually attended church down the street. I was wandering around doing nothing and the pastor there was working on his car in the parking lot and invited me to come. I had nothing better to do on a Sunday morning, so I did. I was actually confirmed and was an acolyte for a while. Then, as was everything doing in those years, that church fled the city for the suburbs and left me behind. I was around 13 when that happened and my church going days ended for the next 30 some odd years.

My neutrality towards religion came to a halt during my first year of university. We all fancied ourselves budding young intellectuals, and religion was very uncool. It was there I learned all of the standard non believing arguments about the stupidity of faith and took them as my own. My big memory concerning religion is how we would sit and heckle and mock the Christians who preached in the Quad and witnessed to people. That was really when I crossed over from neutrality to hostility towards religion. Nothing really changed for many years. I was doing fine without any stupid god in my life, thank you very much. Now and then people would try to tell me about Jesus, but generally my reaction ranged from disinterest to disdain. If fact, one of my favorite sports with the missionary door knockers was to take a big swig from my beer and blow smoke in their faces. I was not particularly nice to people of faith. I do remember one period though, when I lived in Utah. Readers probably know that Utah is predominantly Mormon in faith. In the small town I lived in there was also a Baptist mission. It seemed for 18 months the two factions were at odds to see who would win my soul. The funny thing is, neither really told me their message, but sure told me a lot about the evils of the other. Since many of these were people I supervised, I was not overtly hostile, but simply refused to engage much on the issue.

This may be a good spot to discuss how Christianity and religion was handled in my own home with my own family. Although my environment regarding religion was fairly neutral, the environment I fostered and developed in my home was decidedly not. My wife and daughter made some attempts over the years to get me to take them to church, but I simply never allowed it to happen. I did manage to actually set foot in churches a couple of times, but quickly found reasons to never return. A couple of instances come to mind even now. One had to do with a local Assembly of God church my daughter had gone to some, as they had a band and she liked to play music. All I really remember was some fellow speaking in tongues during the service. I justified never returning by saying, “Those people are nuts!” Another time or two, I attended a couple of Baptist churches where the message inevitably included the topics of sin and punishment. Obviously, a loving God would never judge me or punish me, so again, I never went back. But my attitude toward Christianity and religion was much more than just a personal choice to not participate; I was very vocal and outspoken about just what I thought of this god and his conduct, and the conduct and attitudes of those who professed to follow him. I did a pretty fair job of indoctrinating my children to become people of no faith. Note that word, indoctrination. I didn’t teach them to think critically about religion, I taught them that religion and its followers were stupid.

Here, fast forward some 25 years. After living in various places in this country and the world I found myself back home. By this time, my constant focus on my career and getting ahead had resulted in the sad fact that my marriage was failing rapidly. It was about then that I met the first of several people who had influences on me that changed my life, although none of us knew this at the time of our interactions.

The first came when I was still with Wal Mart serving in management. At this time I was the overnight manager for a very large, brand new Supercenter. One of the folks on my crew was a man named Bob. Bob was a devout Christian man with quite a story. Bob’s daughter had been the center of a rather prominent court case concerning her right to pray over the intercom during school football games. It was quite a notable case at the time. At any rate, Bob became my friend. I was loud; I was profane; I was heathen to the very core of my being. Nonetheless, Bob became my friend. He told me all about Jesus, never judged me, and stayed my friend even when I told him to stop talking about all that God stuff. I left Wal Mart later, and Bob and I lost contact. Stay tuned, however, as Bob reappears later in this story in a really cool way.

The next person who came into my life came after I left Wal Mart and launched a career selling real estate. Her name was Barbara and she was a fellow real estate agent, the wife of a pastor, and also a good friend. It’s important to understand that by this time I was single and for sure living the single life. No details necessary, but the single life. Our town was not a huge town, so I imagine my business was pretty public knowledge to tell the truth. Barbara never mentioned any of that. She just became my friend, along with her pastor husband. She told me lots about Jesus, but I mostly nodded and went on. She even invited me to church so much that I finally went a few times just to silence her. I did go to her church a few times, but soon lost interest and moved on.

The next two people who had substantial impact on me are two whose names I can’t even remember now, but I do remember what they did and said. I was working waiting tables at a local Cracker Barrel to supplement my income as I built a real estate business, and this pair worked there also. They were brother and sister, and very devout Christians. Again, they became friends. A truth that needs to be stated here is that we were, overall, not very nice to these young people. No one ever openly mocked them, but we would all say and do things around them simply because we knew it would bother and hurt them. Not one single time did either rise to the bait and act wrongly. In fact, they seemed to go out of their way to single me out and befriend me.

Here is where things began to change. I had the opportunity to deal with a woman who was a banker in the town I now live in as a result of a Real Estate transaction. It turned out that she and my friend Barbara had been acquaintances for years. It came to light that she was single, I was single, and the next thing I knew we were having lunch together. To say I was instantly smitten with this young lady would be an understatement of huge proportions! We arranged for me to come to her town and we would have a real date. I will never forget picking her up and looking in the living room and seeing a piano. When I enquired if she played, her response was, “Yes, I play the piano at my church.” Uh oh, red alert, run for the hills. But, I didn’t.

Fast forward a couple of months to my discovery of an important social thing down south. If you want to hang around the church girl on Sunday, you have to go to church. So, I did. I went over and over in  fact. I will never forget how welcome those people made me feel; they treated me like an old friend. Still, nothing really happened. I actually enjoyed the preaching, but honestly I was more concerned with eating dinner and hanging out with the girl and her parents.(Yes, people still do that!)

Then one day, after a couple of months, the thing occurred which would forever change my life. The preacher, as usual, was preaching; I, as usual, was paying only some attention. An important fact in this story is that I had come from my earlier marriage in somewhat a state of financial ruin; not only that, but the way I was planning to handle it all was not particularly responsible. All of the sudden, and for no reason related to the sermon at hand, the preacher went on some strange rabbit trail concerning…you guessed it..financial irresponsibility! And was looking right at me! He didn’t stay long, but by then he had my full attention, to say the least.

What came next was fairly standard salvation message stuff. Sin, holiness, and judgment. I understood pretty clearly in that single instant how I had failed a Holy God, who was also a just God, and that I owed a penalty for the sin in my life. Here is the deal, though; I still didn’t really care! I was still perfectly fine thumbing my nose in the face of God and daring Him to send me to Hell. That pretty much answers the question concerning whether or not God scares people into loving Him, because I still wasn’t going to budge. What happened next sealed this deal and I won’t ever forget the words.

The preacher quoted from Luke 4:18, drawn from Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,’

I found out later that that passage was never intended to be in that message, but that was the moment. There I was, prisoner to my sin, brokenhearted, and bruised. And moreover, there was a God who would not only release me from the penalty I owed for my sin, but would set me free in many, many other ways.

I knew nothing; I knew less than most 10 year olds who lurch their way to an altar in a church. I did know I was lost, and doomed, and broken inside and out. I really slowed things up that day, and caused some dinners to be overcooked, because the preacher had to explain it all to me, and in my mind he was going to do it at that very moment. I wanted change right then! But really, the explanation was not deep and it’s not deep now. Repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ; it’s just that simple.

Here is a wonderful and beautiful epilogue to this story. Often, when we have witnessed to a person we never know how things ended, and that can be discouraging at times. About two years after my salvation, something happened that truly shows that God rewards faithful witnessing. We were all getting settled into our seats for a quick morning devotional before heading out to Sunday School. I looked across the church and locked eyes with……Bob! You have to understand that we are not really in the main traffic flow where I live; people don’t end up here by accident. I was thinking, “What is Bob doing in Palmyra?” and I am pretty sure Bob was thinking,” What is Wally doing in a CHURCH?” Turns out his mother in law was the oldest currently serving member of our church!

Isn’t God great?

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