Faith in His Blood

The instant of conversion is when we believe on God in the context of what He has done for us in Christ (Jn 3:36), but what is it exactly that we actually believe in or about God and/or Christ that saves us?

Abram was justified the instant he believed in Jehovah (Ge 15:6), yet he evidently had a deep relationship with God prior to this time and was following Him the best he knew how. (1-4) Abram had obediently left his home and family to follow Jehovah (He 11:8), built an altar to worship Him (12:8) and called on His name. (13:3-4) Yet Abram’s belief in God did not justify Him.

The faith which justified Abraham came afterward (Ro 4:19-22), and was thus more than believing in God’s existence, that God should be worshipped, trusted and followed at any cost. Such beliefs are evidently typical of those seeking God and His salvation (Lk 13:24) and involve prerequisites to saving faith, but do not fully comprise it. (He 11:6)

We might think believing on Christ is equivalent to accepting the fact that Christ is God’s Son and that He rose from the dead, yet we find Christ Himself telling us that many who call Him Lord, evidently believing such obvious basics about Him, will ultimately be cast away, eternally condemned. (Mt 7:21-23) Many who claim to believe the historical facts about Christ aren’t obeying Him, showing that they don’t love Him (Jn 14:23), and He’s telling us in no uncertain terms that these folk don’t belong to Him. (26-27)

God says Jesus Christ is made a propitiation for us through faith in His blood. (Ro 3:24-25) In other words, the belief that justifies is an explicit, unwavering trust in, dependence on and  rest in the efficacy of the blood of Christ for one’s personal justification before God: it is the blood that makes atonement for our soul. (Le 17:11) It’s knowing we’re justified by what Christ has done in shedding His blood and dying for our sin (1Co 15:3), becoming our sin (2Co 5:21), washing us from our sins in His own blood (Re 1:5), and imputing perfect righteousness to us. (Ro 4:23-25)

This is not the same as believing Jesus Christ died to provide an offer of salvation to the whole world, such that anyone may be forgiven of their sins. While this is certainly true (Jn 3:16), this belief in itself does not save anyone because it is not personal; it’s not about one’s own sin being atoned and paid for. This belief opens the door to salvation, but believing it does not get us through the door because something that applies to everyone, but does not in itself save anyone, cannot be proper grounds for our justification. Believing it gives us no personal assurance of eternal life.

We are justified as we receive God in Christ (Jn 1:12-13), becoming fully persuaded that the salvation God promised in Christ He has already performed in us (Ro 4:21-22): that the blood of Christ and His atoning work has satisfied God in our personal case and has eternally justified us. (Is 53:11) This is a supernatural work in which God assures us of eternal life in Christ (1Th 1:5), based entirely on the work Christ has done in dying for us personally on the Cross, paying our sin debt to God, and creates in us a new nature (2Co 5:17) that loves Him (Jn 14:23) and obeys Him. (1Jn 3:9-10)

articles    blog

Believe on Him

Given that there are only two places to spend eternity, Heaven and Hell, and nothing in between, it follows that at the most fundamental level there are only two eternal spiritual states before God: condemned and justified (or not-condemned). (Jn 3:18)

Given that we all start out alienated from God, dead in sin, under the wrath of God (Ep 2:1-3), such that we’re all commanded to repent and believe (Ac 20:21), in order to go to Heaven a transition must occur when we go from being condemned to being justified. According to Scripture, this transition happens as we believe on Jesus Christ (Jn 3:36, Ro 3:26), so it is important to understand what this means, to ensure that we are justified and are no longer condemned.

The first thing we might notice is that if there are only two possible states before God: condemned and justified, any transition between these two states must be instantaneous; it must happen in an instant. In other words, in order to go to Heaven there be an instant in time when we stand condemned before God, dead in sin, headed for Hell, and the second after this instant we are justified before God, headed for Heaven, eternally safe, such that God will never again impute sin to us. (Ro 4:6-8) Becoming justified cannot occur gradually over a measurable period of time, or involve an ongoing process of growth and transformation. This is directly implied by the fact that there are fundamentally only two possible, eternal spiritual states:  condemned and justified; there is nothing in between, no middle ground for us to occupy, even for a moment.

A second thing we might notice is that at the instant we are justified we must believe something new and different about Christ that we have not believed before, and this belief will relate in some way to the person, character and/or atoning work of Christ. (Ro 4:23-25) This follows from the fact that if we are justified by believing on Christ, justification is conditional upon having this belief in Christ, and having this belief in Christ implies that we are already justified. So, this belief in Christ must first occur in us at the instant of justification, and not sooner or later: justification happens as and when we believe on Christ, and we believe on Christ as and when we are justified.

This may seem trivial, stating the obvious, something anyone could discover by thinking just a little bit and using some common sense. Yet this understanding of salvation is very uncommon among professing Christians: that [1] there must be an instant of conversion (or salvation), and that [2] this event is marked by believing something new about Christ which was not believed before. (Ro 3:22)

Most all Christians do not believe salvation occurs when their beliefs about Christ and His work change. In most every case, what is believed about Christ just before the instant of salvation is identical to what is believed about Christ immediately afterward. In other words, no beliefs in or about Christ change at the point when most think they’re being saved. This is how most every evangelical gospel tract presents the good news and evidently how most every instructed Christian would explain it, basing salvation itself on something other than simply believing on Christ. This is — obviously — no small thing.

The typical substitute today, at least in Evangelical Christianity, is some form of The Sinner’s Prayer, in which a person, believing they are currently headed for Hell, and having been told the good news about Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and having believed the message, yet perceive nothing in the message itself suggesting that they are justified before God merely by believing it. Rather, they hope to experience this transition from being condemned to being justified by telling God they’re sorry they have sinned, asking Christ to save them, and committing their lives to serve and obey God. They think of this act of prayer as trusting Christ to save them, but nothing about what they believe is changing during this act of praying, so this cannot be the correct way to present or understand the gospel if salvation is by believing in Christ.

In the Bible, when the gospel message is presented, people are saved as they hear and believe the message; something miraculous happens within them causing them to believe on Christ (Ac 8:35-37); they are never encouraged to pray any kind of prayer or engage in any kind of ritual in order to be justified — they just believe. (Ac 10:43-44)

Praying to receive Christ does not get us to Heaven; neither does being baptized, taking a sacrament, following any religion, creed or tradition, or performing any kind of ritual. (Ga 6:15) Those who depend on such Man-made devices for their eternal safety have perverted the gospel of Christ and do not rightly understand it. (Ga 1:6-8)

It should come as no surprise that many — perhaps almost everyone — calling Jesus Christ Lord will be cast away from Him, as He pronounces those dreadful, final words: “I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mt 7:22-23)

articles    blog

Crucified Among You

A Being Who creates time and space must be beyond both space and time, inhabiting eternity, able to simultaneously experience all of time and space at once. (Ep 4:10) If there are 10 dimensions, or more, God has designed each one and exists within, through and outside them all (Ro 11:36), being both ever-present and omnipresent.

The Word gives us glimpses, windows into His unimaginable infinitude. As Christ walks the earth, He is yet in the heavenlies (Jn 3:13) holding everything together. (Col 1:17) He has already trodden down all who err from His statutes (Ps 119:118), as if the Day of Vengeance has already come and gone. (Is 63:3-5) In other words, anything and everything God will ever experience … He may have already experienced it, and He may always experience it.

The Passion of the Christ

This includes that mysterious moment nearly two millennia ago when Jesus Christ cried out: “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken me?(Mt 27:46) If any moment in all eternity is the most dreadful, the most intense, the most awesome and wondrous, perhaps it is when the deepest eternal communion within the very Godhead is disintegrating, breaking,  being disrupted and marred by sin. This is the moment God is pleased to bruise His Son, to put Him to unspeakable grief, to make His Holy soul an offering for sin. (Is 53:10)

This darkest hour, when Christ became our sin, as He was treated as a sinner, as an abomination by His own Father, would certainly be an hour He might never want to experience again, ever, for all eternity. Yet, if this is Love, born of and revealing Love, the highest possible form and expression of Love, why would God forget it?

The fact that God is Love itself (1Jn 4:16) suggests that God accepts this infinite suffering as part of His eternal experience, ever mindful of the dreadful price He has paid to ransom us. It is immeasurable suffering on our behalf; we can never fully comprehend it.

So, when Paul claims Christ was crucified among the Galatians, decades after He rose from the dead (Ga 3:1), while he certainly wasn’t being literal in the sense that Christ had came back down to Earth to die again, it seems Paul may not have been entirely metaphorical either: there’s evidently a very real sense in which the atonement of Christ may a timeless, ongoing event from God’s perspective, though He has only offered up Himself once. (He 7:27)

And herein, within the infinitude of God, we may find the mystery of the Gospel laid out for us afresh and anew, how God can be angry with unbelievers, condemning them for their unbelief (Jn 3:18) and holding them guilty for breaking His laws (Ro 3:19) long after the Cross, yet assure all who believe on Christ that He bore our sins in His own body on the cross (1Pe 2:24), such that Christ cleansed us from all our sins long ago. (He 1:3)

To acknowledge this, as the scripture clearly states, is to admit that the atonement of Christ is both limited to those who have already believed (Is 53:11), yet also available to anyone (1Jn 2:2) who is willing to seek after God until they do believe. (Mt 7:7-8)

So it is, in the wisdom of God, how unbelievers remain condemned in their sin (Ja 5:19-20), how David believes on Christ long before Christ comes as if He has already died, such that sin is no longer imputed to him (Ro 4:6-8), and how we find all our sin laid on Christ only as we believe on Him, well after His work is completed. All this can only be true if the work of the Cross itself persists outside of time in some mysterious way.

Before the foundation of the world, Christ is slain (Re 13:8), and He lives this out over time in every holy sacrifice offered up in faith before the Cross itself, in all who see the Lamb of God taking away their sin. (Jn 1:29) It continues even now, with and without the visual aid of animal sacrifice, unto the end of the world, as each elected soul grasps the efficacious miracle of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, until the very last believer is welcomed, sin-debt paid in full, and the Bride of Christ is complete, new heavens and new Earth blaze with the ever-present glory of the greatest act of Love the universe has ever known.

articles    blog

I Am Not Worthy

As servants of Jesus Christ we present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God: after He’s given His Son for our sin and taken us into His own family, it’s the only reasonable thing to do. (Ro 12:1)

We might easily want to do something great for God, to be significant in His kingdom, and if we aren’t careful become frustrated or even resentful if the way before us seems menial, insignificant, unimportant, difficult or painful.

Yet the greatest of mortal men, John the Baptist (Mt 11:11), felt quite differently. John felt unworthy to perform the most trivial, lowly service for Christ, to even loosen His sandal. (Jn 1:26-27) His humble attitude puts things in proper perspective.

What should we consider ourselves worthy of before God? What kinds of blessings do we deserve? What station, position or recognition? To name anything good at all here is to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, carelessly, thoughtlessly, presumptuously. (Ro 12:3)

The fact is that whatever God assigns us, whatever task or duty or suffering He is pleased to call us into, we should be extremely thankful for it, grateful beyond our capability to express it. It is infinite mercy, anything He is pleased to order for us more than what we truly deserve: to burn in Hell, forever cast away from God; we don’t deserve any better.

Measuring the importance of our lot, of what God ordains for us, cannot be our concern; only God Himself assigns ultimate significance and value. What role we play in the eternal drama of God, how critical our task in His strategic plan, how our lives impact others and glorify God, both now and in eternity … only God knows. It is our heart God is watching (1Co 4:5), why we’re doing what we’re doing. In running the race set before us (He 12:1), our unique and precious race, our focus must be to obey Him reverently and serve Him joyfully (Ps 2:11) Our singular desire must be to hear Him say, “Well done!”

articles  ♦  blog

Remember the Day

Thirty-eight years ago today I was born again in a mobile home park in Alamosa, CO, after struggling for nearly 5 years to understand and believe the gospel. I was 22 years old.

Prior to this I had earnestly prayed The Sinner’s Prayer on two different occasions, asking Christ to come into my heart and save me and committing my life to serve Him, and I had been baptized three times. I had attended Bible college, memorized many books of the Bible, led scores of people in professions of faith, and preached many sermons in church pulpits. But I never had assurance of salvation, and was still struggling earnestly to believe the gospel and be saved.

Several months prior to this God had spoken to me directly and revealed my lost condition: I loved the Bible and I loved religion, but I didn’t love Him: God is precious to believers (1Pe 2:7), so I wasn’t a believer, not just yet. The evangelical message had completely failed me; after years of earnestly searching and studying and going to church … I had no faith: I didn’t know what it was or how to get it.

It was on July 11, 1984, that I finally decided I could not go on any longer without understanding the gospel. I had locked myself in my study, determining not to leave until I believed on Christ and had assurance of eternal life. (1Jn 5:13) I knew it had nothing to do with asking Christ to save me, repenting of my sins, dedicating my life to serve Him, believing Christ had lived and died and rose again, being baptized, attending church, etc. What it was I had no idea, but I had to know. Not knowing was not an option.

Salvation was by faith: I knew I had to believe something I didn’t currently believe, to know something by faith that I didn’t currently know, and I could not for the life of me figure out what this was, and no one had been able to help me.

As I was meditating on and studying the word propitiation in 1 John 2:2, it suddenly became apparent to me that Christ had actually already paid my sin debt in full when He died on the cross for me (Is 53:11), and that the only way I could possibly be condemned was if He had somehow failed. His righteousness was suddenly now my righteousness, and I was as safe in Him as He was. This belief was certain, unshakable, steadfast. There was nothing to ask for, no ritual to perform, nothing to do: it was already done. All I could do was say, “Thank you!”, and so I did.

This was an entirely new experience for me, something I had never believed before. I could not explain why I believed it, or how this had happened to me. I also realized in that instant that God was now precious to me; I loved Him, I was attracted to Him, committed to Him and delighted in Him, more than anything or anyone else.

This is my testimony, my understanding of how one is born again and how I have experienced it: we believe on God for our salvation and trust Him as our Savior. (Ro 4:4) This produces assurance of eternal life in us (He 10:22) and creates in us a new nature: it isn’t something we can actually do on our own, any more than we can do something to be born physically (Ja 1:20): it is something God does in us. (Jn 1:13) He must give us both the hunger to seek Him, as well as the faith to believe on Him.

Within God’s feast of Passover, I see His command to remember this day every day of my life (De 16:3), the day I was born anew, personally delivered from this present evil world, according to the will of God. (Ga 1:4) I will never forget it.

Thank you Father for your unspeakable gift! (2Co 9:15)

articles  ♦  blog

To Know the Love

The love of God is certainly a mystery; He loves in ways which are quite foreign to us. He loves His enemies (Mt 5:44-45), offering forgiveness and reconciliation (Ro 10:21), while allowing immense suffering in His own children when He could easily prevent it; to the most faithful and obedient He even bestows pain and suffering as a gift. (Php 1:29) It’s not the kind of love we’re familiar with.

The goal of God’s love, the guiding principle, is evidently not our temporal pleasure or comfort, but that we might be partakers of His holiness. (He 12:10) This truly is ultimate benevolence and merciful kindness, to align us with Himself and His nature, with truth and light; anything less would be unloving and malicious.

God knows all, including what we would do, left to our own devices, in every situation we could possibly encounter, and what we would become without His intervention and aid in every conceivable circumstance. He also knows the absolute best way to reveal Himself in and through us, and how to work holiness in us for His own glory and pleasure. (Php 2:13) His love, both for Himself and for us, ensures He will do so perfectly, in the perfect way and in the perfect time (Jud 24), working everything for ultimate good in and for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28)

The primary manifestation of God’s love is in sending His Son into the world that we might live through Him. (1Jn 4:9) It’s here we find the ultimate expression of love: God sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (10), to redeem us from all iniquity and purify us unto Himself. (Tit 2:14)

In order to save us God became sin for us, that we might be made perfectly righteous in Him. (2Co 5:21) God suffers inexpressibly in order to be in relationship with us, laying down His very life for us. (1Jn 3:16) In other words, God is all in; He holds nothing back (Ro 8:32), and He can rightly require no less of us (Ro 12:1) — this isn’t about comfort: it’s about holiness, without which no one will see God. (He 12:14)

The full experiential knowledge of this love is priceless; we should study it and meditate on it, asking God to open our eyes (Ep 1:16b-17), praying for ourselves and for each other, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ep 3:14-19)

How well we understand God’s love is revealed in how well we’re obeying Him. (1Jn 2:3) How thankful are we? (Ep 5:20) How joyful? (Php 4:4) Are we abounding in hope? (Ro 15:13) Are we seeking the welfare of our enemies, in God and for Him? (Mt 5:44-45) Do we see God’s love in all He does? (Ro 11:36) This is the Holy Ghost revealing the love of God in us, and shedding it abroad through us. (Ro 5:5)

articles  ♦  blog

Rather Fear Him

Perspective makes all the difference as we navigate life; our awareness and perception of reality is what is orients us. Having a valid frame of reference is key.

Christ helps us here by teaching us to fear: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28)

In other words, Christ says all the pain and suffering people may cause one another on Earth, all the atrocities, mayhem and crimes against humanity, these pale in comparison with the suffering God will impose on all who despise and neglect Him. (Lk 12:4-5) Not even close.

Imagine our world as a large, thin sheet of rice paper, suspended far above a raging fire. We’re all walking around on this frail, brittle sheet as if it’s terra firma, rock solid, unconcerned, as if we’re in no danger. Yet, one by one, we all drop through, down into the flames below. (Lk 16:22b-23) Some die welcoming an end to temporal suffering, oblivious of the eternal torment awaiting them; others drop unexpectedly in an instant. In either case, all false perception, all lies, all vain hopes and dreams, they vaporize as mist before the flame. Terror consumes us (Ps 73:19) and there’s no turning back. (Pr 1:27-28)

This perspective may seem surreal, superstitious, cruel. Yet it’s offered as reality by the Son of God Himself. If anyone knows proper perspective, Jesus Christ does. We ignore Him at our vast peril.

To heed Christ’s warning is to value one thing above all (Php 3:13-14): to be so aligned with God right now that whenever it’s our turn to drop into eternity, we know He’ll be waiting to receive us and conduct us safely to Himself (Lk 16:22-23), rather than saying, “Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mt 5:23)

There’s no concern more relevant, no consequence more sobering than this, yet who among us is concerned? Even for themselves, much less for others? Who is asking, as the old prophet, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Is 33:14)

The truth? Most all of us will burn, and it’s our own fault: though He’s invited us all to come, to repent and believe, to strive to enter (Lk 13:24), so very few will seek and find the way. (Mt 7:13-14) False hope here, deadening the soul into complacency, is the worst. It is wisdom to diligently make our calling and election sure. (2Pe 1:10)

articles  ♦  blog

Be Ye Angry

What is righteous anger? If there is such a thing, wouldn’t it imply that a less passionate, passive response would be inappropriate? In other words, wouldn’t it mean there are times when it’s a sin to not be angry? If anger is the righteous response, wouldn’t any other response be unrighteous to some degree?

Jesus was angry with the Pharisees’ hardness of heart (Mk 3:5), and He certainly acted as if He was angry when He cleansed the temple. (Jn 2:13-17) Was Jesus setting an example (1Jn 2:6), or acting as God in ways we shouldn’t emulate?

The Gospel of John

Was Nehemiah right to be angry with the rulers and nobles of Israel for charging interest and bankrupting their brethren? (Ne 5:6-7) or to threaten merchants for showing up on Sabbath? (13:21)

Was Moses righteously angry with Israel for worshipping the golden calf? (Ex 32:19) or with Aaron’s sons for failing to carry out their priestly duties? (Le 10:16-17)

Anger is an emotion given us by God, so we should expect situations when we ought to act in it; He tells us, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” (Ep 4:26) The emotion instantly energizes us to intervene and deter and/or stop evil, so anger can serve to protect ourselves and others from malevolence. The problem is that we often over-react in anger and do more harm than good. We should ask ourselves, as God asks Jonah: “Doest thou well to be angry?(Jon 4:4) What does righteous anger look like?

Firstly, it must be done with love (1Co 16:4); rooted and grounded in love. (Ep 3:17) Is concern for others motivating my anger? (Php 3:18) Would a lack of anger expose indifference? Does anger move me to action which is ultimately benevolent and edifying? (Ro 14:19)

Secondly, is it self-controlled, using minimal necessary force? (Tit 3:2) Am I being sober, thoughtful, prayerful and deliberate in my actions? (1Pe 5:8) Am I asking God for wisdom, strength and discernment? (Ec 7:9) Is it needful? Is there any way to achieve my goal more peaceably? (1Co 4:21) Does my anger promptly subside once the threat is past? (Ep 4:26b)

Thirdly, is my heart free of pride, condescension, strife, vengeance (Ro 12:19), arrogance and malice of any kind? (Ep 4:31) Am I being humble, esteeming others better than myself? (Php 2:3)

The bar is certainly high; I expect most anger won’t pass the test. All too often, our anger is born of selfishness and pride, and doesn’t work the righteousness of God. (Ja 1:19-20)

However, if we have reasonable cause to be angry (Mt 5:22a), inaction may be worse than getting it partly wrong: we may be compelled to act instinctively, do the best we can, and let God sort it out. It’s certainly wise to continually exercise ourselves in holiness, preparing ourselves so we might stand uprightly in the evil day. (Ep 6:13)

articles   ♦   blog