The Word of Faith

Salvation’s a mysterious thing, for sure, how and why God intervenes in our headlong dash to destruction (Mt 7:13); His mercy is infinite, even in the best of us;  we’ve no hope apart from Him.

Medicine Root Trailhead, Badlands National Park, SD • Dan Anderson

In some ways, getting saved seems so simple, but simple solutions to complex problems are usually wrong. When we look closely at this one — and we’d better — it’s like most anything else about a living being: a flat-out miracle.

When first struggling with this, I was told I just needed to confess Christ as Lord, believe in His Resurrection, and sincerely ask Him to save me. (Ro 10:9, 13) It seemed scriptural, and so doable, but it didn’t work, not for me. Thus began my long and painful journey, striving to enter the narrow way (Mt 7:14), a trip few will ever make.

As usual, context provides the key, revealing what accepting Christ is all about: “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” (Ro 10:8) If we don’t understand this in context, we’re all out of context, and I’ve never seen a reasonable explanation of this verse, how it all ties together. So, here we go.

The quote is from Torah: “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” (De 30:14) The key to salvation is our heart, and the law of God (Torah, “the word”) becoming part of us (“in thy heart”). We don’t start out this way, aligned with God’s Law from the heart (Ro 8:7), because our heart is evil (De 29:4), so we need a new one (De 5:29): we need to be transformed. (2Co 5:17) The gospel, the good news, is that God is able and willing to provide us a new heart (Ez 36:26)and write His laws into it (He 10:16), enabling us to keep them. (1Jn 3:24)

Eternal salvation is not found in ritual, but only in the mystery miracle (Mt 19:26) of becoming one with the eternal God through His Son Jesus Christ (Jn 17:21), entering into His rest by faith(He 4:3) Evidence of this transformation is a heart cleaving to God, delighting in Him and His laws above all else, obeying Him and following His Way (Jn 14:6)assured of our eternal destiny only in what Christ has done for us. (1Th 1:5)

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Him Will I Confess

Christ says whoever confesses Him before others, He will also confess before His Father in Heaven (Mt 10:32); and whoever denies Him before others, He will also deny before His Father. (Mt 10:33) We either belong to both God the Father and the Son, or to neither; we cannot have one without the other. (Jn 17:10)

The word confess is from the Greek homologeo, meaning to speak the same thing, to be in agreement. Christ claims as His own those who agree with what He did and said, who are willing to stand with Him against the world; He’s ashamed of (Mk 8:38) and disowns everyone else. (Mt 7:23) Our eternal welfare hinges on what we think of Christ: there’s no middle ground.

Confessing Christ, agreeing with Him, is thus to find Christ, to belong to Him and obey Him. To know Him is to love Him supremely, to cling to Him above all else (Mt 13:45-46), to esteem Him exceedingly precious (1Pe 2:7), and to agree with Him that this world’s system is evil. (Jn 7:7) This implies a willingness to give up everything for Him. (Lk 14:33) We cannot have Christ and hold on to the world: He doesn’t give us this option. (Mt 10:39)

It’s a lie that we can be safe in God while loving this world (1Jn 2:15); to have Him we must let go of the world (Mk 10:21-22), we must be willing to count all things but loss for Christ. (Php 3:8) If we’re still focused on this life, if the temporal is our constant preoccupation rather than the eternal, if we’re denying His name as a manner of life for earthly benefits, then we haven’t found Him yet (Lk 14:26); we’re still His enemies, headed for destruction (Php 3:18-19), accursed. (1Co 16:22)

The world so hates Christ and His way (Jn 15:18) it moves them to despise those who know Him. (1Co 4:10) But my question to the world is this: What do you have that’s better than Christ? What fault do you find in Him? (Jn 18:38) Based on what standard? Don’t you mock because you’ve no rational defense for your hatred?

Though God’s given us all assurance in the historical fact of Christ’s Resurrection, the world blindly rejects its only treasure, the only One Who can satisfy our longing for perfection, beauty, significance, and purpose. (Col 2:3) Apart from Christ, the world has nothing worth having; of this I’m absolutely certain.

Being friends with the world makes us God’s enemy (Ja 4:4); yet from that darkness we can’t help it find the light. When knowing God is the most important thing to us, when we’re crying after knowledge, then we’ll find Him (Je 29:13) and be able to help others do so. (Ac 26:18) He rewards all who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6)

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Assurance Unto All

God has given us proof of His existence, showing us the way to Himself. He’s done this so openly and plainly that anyone can see for themselves, and find assurance of eternal life.  (Ac 17:31)

Tomb Chamber, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

According to the biblical account, Christianity began as twelve poor, uneducated Jews, who knew Jesus personally and followed Him, suddenly began testifying of Christ’s resurrection(Ac 3:15) After Christ was crucified, dead and buried, these disciples claimed He rose from the dead. They said they saw Him, spoke with Him, touched Him, ate with Him, and that He continued teaching them for forty days. (Ac 1:3) Eventually, over five hundred people claimed they saw the risen Christ at once; many lived for decades afterwards confirming this firsthand witness to all who would listen. (1Co 15:6)

Proclaiming a risen Christ was unpopular, counter-cultural, and consistently got the disciples in trouble with Jewish authorities. (Ac 5:17) The apostles weren’t trying to start a new religion; they remained observant Jews their entire lives. They never sought power or wealth, and though they were persecuted and tortured for their witness, they all died proclaiming the truth of the risen Christ.

If these early disciples of Christ were not telling the truth, they knew they were lying and trying to deceive people, and it was causing them unspeakable suffering to do this. (1Co 4:9-10) Yet none of them ever recanted, or were even willing to keep silent regarding this unusual claim. (Ac 4:18-20) Rather, they rejoiced in their suffering (Ac 5:41), and went to their graves in confidence and hope. (Ac 7:59)

People sane enough to fabricate new religions don’t behave like this. There’s no reasonable explanation for their behavior if they weren’t telling the truth. So, the foundation of this faith is an empty tomb, and the original historical witness of this fact is extremely credible.

For hundreds of years afterward, Christianity remained unpopular, flourishing under both Roman and Jewish persecution. At no point in this early history could a resurrected Christ have been invented without Christians hearing about it for the first time and recognizing this as a false myth.

Sane people don’t suffer and die for what they know is a lie, and there is zero evidence that any Christian ever complained about the cornerstone of their faith being changed, or newly introduced and strange to them. So, the entire early history of Christianity, well before it was popularized and adopted by Constantine, further verifies the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

All of Christianity, as broken as it is today, continues to uphold this testimony as its very foundation: without the resurrection of Christ, Christianity cannot stand. It has never been otherwise.

This is proof, as solid as any historical proof can be, that God has revealed Himself to all of us. There’s no reasonable explanation for the existence of Christianity apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then He is Who He says He is, and He can be trusted to reveal Himself to us as the Way to God. (Jn 14:6)

Amidst the chaos of world religion, the resurrection of Christ stands out as a remarkable singularity: there’s nothing comparable to it. What do you think of Christ? If we want to know God, enter into His rest and walk with Him, our journey begins here(Ro 10:9)

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One Spirit

Belonging. Being part of something bigger than myself. It gives me a sense of connection, safety, acceptance, significance, purpose, intimacy, dignity. (Ep 1:6) It’s what I long for; I think we all do.

Crescent Nebula

It’s why we join clubs, societies, communities, churches, gangs, even get married and have families. It’s our instinct to give up freedom, independence and autonomy, to be connected with something larger than ourselves.

When rightly done, we don’t lose ourselves in giving up separateness, we discover ourselves in communion. In union with something above and beyond us, we become more uniquely and fully what God’s designed us to be. It’s a mysterious thing, this passion to belong.

It’s an instinct for a reason: we’re made to be one with Jehovah God (Jn 17:21), so joined with Him that we’re one spirit together (1Co 6:17), inseparable, indistinguishable in a sense.

We’re not identical in every respect with God, obviously, yet no line can be clearly drawn between God and those who are one with Him. Though He’s separate from and above us, He’s also in and through us (Ep 4:6), part of our very own spirit (Ga 2:20), closer than our breath. (Re 3:20)

In being one spirit with God, we’re still uniquely ourselves, and also connected through Him to all who are so joined with Him (1Co 12:13), members one of another, in eternal metaphysical communion (2Co 13:14), enjoying infinite intimacy, perfect family (Ep 3:15), ultimate brotherhood, divine marriage(Ep 5:32)

Longing to belong drives us to seek fulfillment outside ourselves; we aren’t designed to go it alone. (Ge 2:18) But if we don’t recognize this instinct for what it is, to lead us to God, to be one spirit with Him, the craving destroys us, and those around us. There’s no satisfying it outside the Divine embrace. (Ep 4:18)

As disciples of Christ we each belong to God, Who made us, crafted and fashioned us (Ps 119:73), not merely physically – but more importantly, metaphysically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, to be unique expressions of Christ. He reveals His nature and glorifies Himself uniquely through each one of us (2Th 1:10), through our story (1Pe 1:7), His story in us. (Re 3:12)

In uniqueness He’s joined us with Himself, and with all who are in Him, eternally one, yet not lost in our oneness. We cannot possibly be, and belong, any more than this.

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Having Escaped

In believing on Christ, we’ve escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust(2Pe 1:4) This isn’t merely a possibility, it’s reality — already done.

Corruption (impurity, instability, disorder) occurs as we pursue lust (intense desire inconsistent with God’s Law). (Ja 1:14-15) Christ, in delivering us from both the penalty and dominion of sin (Ro 6:14), is giving us a new nature that delights in His law (2Co 5:17), so we no longer give ourselves to violating it.  It doesn’t mean we never sin; it means we’re continuing to grow in holiness as He performs His work in us. (Php 1:6)

Lust moves us to try to satisfy our craving for pleasure, intimacy, beauty, excellence and significance outside of God, as if we’ll find our authentic inner selves apart from Him. But our real self is who God’s designed us to be, perfect in every respect, and we can only realize the potential He’s designed into us as we cleave to Him. If we pursue anything else, we lose all. (1Co 3:15)

Since the purpose of God’s Law is to produce love, a clean conscience, and genuine faith (1Ti 1:5), departing from God’s Way, giving in to unlawful passions, tends to produce the opposite, producing the harmful effects of lawlessness: corruption. But walking in the light, pursuing and enjoying the living God, beholding Him, transforms us into the glorious being He’s destined us to be. (2Co 3:18)

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The Mystery of Faith

There are mysteries in our faith, genuine paradoxes. There’s a mystery of iniquity, that anyone would ever deliberately choose to sin against God, as most everyone does as a manner of life, and also a mystery of faith (1Ti 3:16), how salvation can be by faith while God judges us by our works.

On the one hand, we’re justified before God by faith, by believing on Christ (Jn 3:18) and not by works. (Ro 3:28) On the other hand, on Judgement Day, we know God will render to everyone according to their deeds: those who’ve patiently continued in good works as a manner of life will be saved, and those who haven’t will be damned(Ro 2:6-9) How can both be true?

The answer lies in seeing salvation as the work of God (Jn 6:29), where He regenerates the human heart (Col 2:13) and begins working in us to will and to do according to His pleasure. (Php 2:13) As God so works in our souls, we actually do persistently try to obey Him as a manner of life; we cannot live otherwise (1Jn 3:9), and no one else can live like this. (1Jn 3:10)

So, those who say they know God but aren’t, as a rule of life, trying their best to do what He says, are simply lying. (1Jn 2:4) While there are countless ways to deceive ourselves (Ja 1:22) into thinking, “carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done,” it’s hoping in Satan himself. There’s no safe place outside a life pattern of obedience to God.

Whether we live in a way that’s morally acceptable to society or not isn’t the point: neglecting God’s laws and living life our own way makes us God’s enemies. (Ro 8:7) Nearly everyone lives like this. (1Jn 5:19)

As saints, we know that we still sin (1Jn 1:8), and that our works will never be good enough for God (Ga 3:10); we find our only rest in the finished work of Christ. Yet even though we know we can’t lose eternal salvation, we won’t sin willfully, on purpose, thoughtfully, deliberately, as a manner of life. (1Jn 3:8) We’re new creatures (2Co 5:17), always trying our best to obey God, even though that may not be very good.

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The Month of Abib

In keeping Passover (1Co 5:8) JEHOVAH tells us to observe the month in which it occurs as the the first one, the start of a new year (Ex 12:2); He calls it Abib (De 16:1), from a word meaning tender or green, in reference to unripened grain.

One obvious way to observe this month is to note we’re required to find a spotless lamb (Ex 12:5), so we’re to be observing lambs, noting blemishes and defects, looking for that perfect specimen.

On the tenth of Abib we must choose a spotless lamb and set it apart, keeping it four days and identifying ourselves with it, then killing it (Ex 12:6) unto JEHOVAH (De 16:2) and consuming it. (Ex 12:8) Our particular sacrificial lamb is to become part of us forever.

As in each of JEHOVAH’s feasts, here again we have a picture of how we discover Jesus Christ and make Him part of our lives: searching Him out, that perfect specimen of humanity, considering Him and comparing Him with others. Finding Him flawless and divine, we receive Him into our midst (Jn 1:12), studying Him and centering our lives around Him. (1Pe 2:21) Then we see Him on God’s altar becoming our sin (2Co 5:21) and taking it away (Jn 1:29), and trusting Him to reconcile us to God (2Co 5:19) we enter into His rest (He 4:10), identifying with Him and becoming one with Him. (Jn 17:21)

Each Spring in the month of Abib, as new life springs forth in the fields and flocks, we consider anew our Savior (He 3:1), pondering the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ (Ep 3:8), feeding in the majestyremembering the day He became our Passover (1Co 5:7), the day JEHOVAH delivered us from the kingdom of this world. (De 16:3)

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What Think Ye of Christ?

Christ asked a simple question about Himself which might be helpful in evangelism: “What do you think of Christ?” (Mt 22:41-42) Most people don’t feel threatened when asked their opinion, and very few seem to have a negative opinion of Christ Himself, so it may be a great way to broach the subject of spirituality without being awkward.

Christ is unarguably the greatest figure in human history, standing far above all others; He may also be the most controversial, so healthy discussion about Him has the potential to be energizing and enlightening. Most everyone seems to have an opinion, but very few appear to ground their opinions in fact.

Thinking honestly about Christ requires knowing what He’s like, studying the Gospels, and carefully considering what Jesus said and did.

Those to whom Christ asked this singular question didn’t think carefully about Him, so they didn’t understand Him and they missed Him, the greatest human being who ever lived, though He stood in their midst, and taught in their streets.

People outside Christianity generally think Christ was a great teacher, and no more, but this is the one thing He can’t be.

Christ didn’t just claim to know the way to God, He also claimed to be the Way (Jn 14:6), and to actually be God Himself in human form (Jn 14:9) … these are claims no reasonable mortal would ever make, especially a devout Jew.

If Christ’s testimony about Himself is true, then He isn’t just a good teacher — He is God Himself; if Christ’s witness of His own nature isn’t true then Christ isn’t even good, this would make Him out to be a profound liar, an impostor … or worse.

Christ’s unique claims require each soul to make a decision about Him; He leaves us no other choice.

Christ publicly predicted His crucifixion well before it happened, and proclaimed that He was going to raise Himself from the dead. (Mt 27:62-63) Then it happened as He said: the Jews did crucify Him … and then Christ did raise Himself from the dead.

The apostles, who knew Christ personally and followed Him, gave up all worldly comforts to testify of this, of the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection — something they’d have known was a lie if it wasn’t true. This was at a time when the very thought of resurrection was mocked in common culture (Ac 17:32), not merely as impossible, but also undesirable. Yet the apostles all died martyr’s deaths, never seeking wealth, fame, pleasure or power, never wavering in their zeal or testimony.

People don’t deliberately sacrifice all, suffer and die for what they know is a lie.

It is undisputed, universally accepted historical fact that Christianity was born of this apostolic witness in the first century C.E, and grew miraculously despite vicious persecution. No one can explain how Christianity came to exist if Christ isn’t authentic, if He didn’t actually raise Himself from the dead. This is historically proven, if anything is, and it’s unique, giving assurance unto all that Christ is the Way to God: there’s nothing else like this in world religions. (Ac 17:31)

Let’s gently appeal to souls to ground their views of Christ in facts, and then to serve Him and enter into His rest. Moving people to carefully ponder Christ, challenging their neglect of Him, might be a powerful tool in the hands of the Spirit as we encounter each eternal soul.

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His Own Burden

I’m the only one who’ll die with my beliefs; no one else is responsible for my faith. I’m accountable to God for what I think, say and do (Mt 12:36); no one else can answer for me. Everyone shall bear their own burden. (Ga 6:4)

If I believe, say or do something wrong it’s my own fault; no one else will be standing with me on Judgement Day. I’ll be looking into the eyes of my Creator, and He into mine, and I will be alone, giving Jehovah Himself an answer for everything. (Ro 14:11-12) Where I land and who I am will be on display for eternity, exposed for all to examine. (1Co 3:13)

If I believe whatever I’m taught by church leaders or theologians, and I don’t care enough to search things out for myself, meditating in God’s Word on my own and verifying their claims, I’m saying it’s OK to believe a lie, so long as I fit in. I’m saying who teaches me is more important than what they teach; that relationships are more important to me than truth, that this world is more valuable to me than eternity (1Jn 2:15-17); that being honored and accepted in this world trumps being honored and accepted by God. (Jn 5:44)

When I’m in the fear of God I don’t need anyone else to agree with me; I’m not intimidated standing alone. (2Ti 4:16) I’m free to let others challenge me, to listen thoughtfully and carefully (Ja 1:19), and to look for truth in everything they say. I’m free to let others seek after God along with me, and to lovingly encourage them to do so.

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Save a Soul

Two friends strolled down a beach littered with starfish that had washed ashore. One began picking the creatures up as he walked along, tossing them one by one back into the sea. The other remarked, “Look at how many there are! You can’t save ’em all. What difference does it make?” His friend replied as he tossed another life back into the water, “It made a difference to that one.”

Being overwhelmed with the suffering of the world can paralyze us into thinking the little we can do doesn’t matter.

But impacting a single soul does matter; we’ll all live forever somewhere, somehow, someway. Every little difference we can make in another human life is infinitely worthwhile. (Ja 5:20) As we have opportunity, let’s do good to everyone. (Gal 6:10)

Let’s be on the lookout for ways to serve. Every single human life is supremely valuable … every man, woman and child. For those who are suffering greatly, orphans, widows, the poor and destitute, do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Human worth is ascribed by God; He values every single soul enough to die in their place. (Jn 3:16) As we serve the least of humanity, we serve Him. (Mt 25:40)

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