Monday, April 23, 2012
Suppose two guys were to stage a debate. We'll call them Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber.
Here's the debate. Bob says that the tomato is the most nutritious bread you can eat. Larry says, no, the cucumber is the most nutritious bread you can eat.
The debate rages on, and Bob the Tomato pulls out all kinds of evidence. Magazine articles, books, medical studies, scientific inquiries, and case studies, all designed to indicate that the tomato is the most nutritious bread you can eat.
Not to be outdone, Larry the Cucumber has his own sources, which he claims show the cucumber is the most nutritious bread you can eat.
Okay, enough of this silliness. Do you see something ridiculous in this scenario, aside from a tomato and a cucumber debating? Something even more ridiculous than comparing apples and oranges?
Of course. Bob and Larry are arguing which is the most nutritious bread, while they are neglecting the obvious – that neither tomatoes nor cucumbers are “bread” at all. While arguing the merits of nutrition, they are missing the fact that they are dealing with two different classes of food, vegetables and bread.
You may be saying, “Terry, what in the world does this have to do with discipleship and salvation?”
The Lordship Salvation Debate
Well, you may be aware of an ongoing debate in churches and seminaries and dens and living rooms, for many years. It's called the Lordship Salvation debate. And the two debaters we will call Lordship Guy and Free-Grace Guy.
And the debate goes something like this:
Free-Grace Guy says, “Salvation is entirely by grace alone through faith alone, that is, faith in Jesus' work on the cross.
“He paid for our sins, and if you believe that, and therefore believe that Jesus is your Savior, and that He died on the cross for your sins, and rose again from the dead, you are saved.
“And you are saved forever, even if you never exhibit any fruit in your life, or even if you turn back away from Jesus, and deny Him, and live a life of complete sin. You're still saved forever.”
Lordship Guy says, “Hold on a minute there, brother, if indeed you are a brother at all with that ridiculous theology. It's not enough to just believe in Jesus as Savior, and believe that He died for your sins and rose again. You must also believe in Him as Lord, and that means that you must do what Jesus said in many places in the Gospels.
"To start with you must 'deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him', Matthew 16:24.
"You must be His disciple, like He said when He said to 'go therefore and make disciples of all the nations', Matthew 28:19. He didn't just say 'go and get decisions for Christ', He said 'make disciples', and we're not worthy to be His disciples unless we obey and follow Him. We need to 'give all that we are for all that He is'. We need to be like the merchant who sold everything he had to buy the Pearl of Great Price, which is the Kingdom of God, which is salvation.”
Okay, the debaters are squared off, and frankly the average person in the pew, so to speak, can, I believe, be pretty easily convinced of either argument.
Free-Grace Guy sounds like he's really honoring the principle of Grace, and doesn't the Bible say we are saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast? Sounds good to me.
But doesn't Lordship Guy sound right when he says that following Jesus as a disciple is really what it's about? After all, wouldn't we be trampling on God's Grace if we just took it and lived however we wanted? That's not salvation is it?
The Bob and Larry Problem: Free-Grace Guy
Free-Grace Guy and Lordship guy are arguing about bread, when the correct argument is about tomatoes and cucumbers.
Here's what I mean.
Free-Grace Guy is missing a key point of Scripture:
He doesn't really realize the point that Jesus is making when He tells Nicodemus in John Chapter 3, “Unless a man is born again, He cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus is making the point which is expanded on the Epistles, that man is born dead in his sins and trespasses, and remains dead in his sins and trespasses until he is born again, or regenerated. And when he is dead in his sins and trespasses, he can't even “see” the Kingdom of God, let alone believe in its King.
In other words, as Rom. 3:11 puts it, there is no one who seeks God. That is, no one who isn't born again. They can't seek God. They are utterly corrupted by the sinful nature that they inherited from Adam. There is no good in them. They are enemies of Christ (Rom. 5:10). How could they possibly believe in Jesus Christ, when they are spiritually dead enemies of Him?
And the biblical answer is that they can't.
And so the wind of the Holy Spirit of God must “blow” where He wills, and give new life to, we say regenerate, a person. Through the preaching of the Word, the Gospel, that person is now born again. He is given a new heart, a new spirit. And the Holy Spirit comes into his spirit to dwell, and he is a new creation, a new creature.
And now he not only believes in Jesus Christ, he can't NOT believe in Jesus Christ. That's what we mean by Irresistible Grace. Not that God brings us kicking and screaming to Christ, but that He silently changes our heart, gives us a new spirit, a new nature, and with that new heart we simply believe in Jesus.
As Savior, yes, and as Lord.
Were there any works involved in that? Of course not.
But understand this important point: there will be works, good works, to follow. Because a new heart will always bring new works. God is now indwelling that person with His Spirit, and He is at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure”, as Paul told the Philippians.
And so Free-Grace Guy, while he is correct that our salvation is entirely by Grace, not of works, he is nevertheless incorrect to think that a truly born-again person could continue in a life entirely of sin, with no fruit in his life, and even leave Christ. Impossible. We have not merely been forgiven, we have been changed.
The Bob and Larry Problem: Lordship Guy
Again, Lordship Guy, Like Free-Grace Guy, is arguing about bread, when the correct argument is about tomatoes and cucumbers.
Here's what I mean:
Lordship Guy means well, sometimes. He speaks, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, against “cheap grace”. He is appalled by people who say they are Christians, but live like the world. He is appalled by the idea that one can “accept Christ” as Savior and then lead a life of debauchery and unbelief, and still call himself a Christian.
And I can sympathize with Lordship Guy. If we love the Lord, we want people to be disciples and deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow Him, don't we? We want people to walk in obedience to Christ, because He deserves it, and He is glorified by His followers, well, following Him.
And after all, aren't the Gospels filled with discipleship commands and requirements? Aren't the parables of Jesus filled with allegories and symbols of our obedience to Him as Lord? I mean, aren't the Gospels called the Gospels because they contain the Gospel?
Ah, now we get down to a big part of the problem.
Invariably, Lordship Guy attempts to understand the New Covenant of our salvation from the Gospel narratives, which historically record events and sayings that occur before the New Covenant was even ratified and explained.
We need to understand that when Jesus walked the earth, He did so under the Law. That is, He was born and lived as an Israelite under the awful burden of the Mosaic Law. And, of course, He was the only one who ever lived perfectly under that Law. The only one who never sinned, never violated the Law, in spirit or letter. He perfectly fulfilled the Law of Moses, the Law of God.
And while under that Law, He taught us a lot of precious truth. About right and wrong, about the heart of God, about what it means to live under the Lordship of Christ in the Kingdom of God. About how the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom, and about how a disciple, a learner and follower, of His should think and live. About the beginnings of the Good News, the Gospel, namely the Good News that the King was now here. The Messiah had come.
Okay, the disciples didn't really "get it", until later after His death and resurrection. But at least He opened the curtains somewhat and announced that it was indeed Good News that He had arrived.
However, it wasn't until the end of His life, and His resurrection, that the New Covenant was instituted.
And therefore, it wasn't until after His death and resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, that a more complete understanding of the Gospel was to be articulated by the Apostles.
And that's why it is a mistake to try to expound on the theology of salvation, soteriology we call it, from the four Gospels.
And that's why Lordship Guy has missed some important truths.
Lordship Guy has missed the same simple truth that Free-Grace Guy has missed. Except that he's missed it from a different direction. One missed this truth from the East side of the road while he was heading North. The other missed this truth from the West side of the road while he was heading South.
Here's the truth Lordship Guy missed: The New Birth is a package deal. When God regenerates a person, “borns them again”, to put it crudely, they are a New Creation, a New Creature. Under the preaching of the Word, the Gospel, this new creature now believes in Jesus Christ, both as Savior, and as Lord.
He doesn't need to “give all that he is for all that Christ is”, he doesn't need to “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Christ”, HE DOESN'T NEED TO DO ANYTHING to be saved, declared righteous (justified), sealed forever, forgiven of all his sins, past, present and future, and to receive every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
He doesn't need to do anything. He doesn't need to embark on a journey of discipleship and Lordship. He doesn't need to do anything. Not of works, lest any man should boast.
But...and here's where Free-Grace Guy and Lordship Guy need to bend the knee to the Word of God, but...the new believer, the true believer who is born again, this new creation, will be a disciple.
Saved to the uttermost by Grace alone, through faith alone, totally apart from the slightest of works, he will, because of the new heart given him, and the indwelling Spirit of Christ, follow Christ.
That's the glory of the New Covenant, in which God promised He would “cause” us to walk in His statutes, which He has written on our hearts and minds (Ezekiel 36:27; 2 Cor. 3:3).
While Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber ramble on and on, debating about bread, they have clouded the real issue of nutrition.
And while Free-Grace Guy and Lordship Guy have rambled on and on, debating about the “Steps to Salvation”, they have clouded the real issue of the New Birth.
An Important Statement
Now I want to close with an important statement. Some who hear this will categorically reject it, but I challenge you to search the Scriptures to see if it's true. Here's the statement:
Until you understand the simple biblical fact that regeneration, being born again, comes BEFORE faith, and makes a New Creation that can't help but believe in Christ, completely by Grace, with no works, no “giving all you have”, no “selling all and buying” required for salvation, you cannot understand these things.
You will either fall into the ditch on the right, called Free-Grace Salvation, or the ditch on the left, called Lordship Salvation. May God reveal to many the sublime beauty of the sovereign work He has done in us, His new creation, causing us to walk in His ways.
As He lives His Life through us, we will be His disciples, denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following Him. Discipleship is a beautiful thing. In our heart of hearts, we desire to follow Him. He is worth following as our Lord and Savior, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator of the Universe He has blessed us with, Immanuel, God with Us, our Redeemer, and our Friend. Being a disciple of His is a beautiful privilege.
But remember that the salvation freely came first by grace alone.
Discipleship isn't salvation.
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Picture a mean bunch of guys, big rocks in their hands, hate on their faces, kicking up dust in the ancient Judean sun.
"For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God!"
With these amazing words in John 10, the Jews gave their reason for trying once again to stone Jesus.
Not yet ready to die, and certainly not by stoning, Jesus escaped Judea and crossed the Jordan River to where John the Baptist had once baptized repentant Israelites, probably Perea. He stayed there for a while, and many believed in Him there.
When word came to Jesus that his beloved friend Lazarus was deathly sick, He didn't cross the Jordan back to Bethany near Jerusalem to visit his friend on his death bed. No one could blame Him for staying . After all, hadn't the Jews repeatedly tried to seize and stone Him? So the disciples didn't blame Him, and they weren't surprised that He stayed in Perea. It only made sense. Lazarus would have to rely on the comfort of His immediate family, Mary and Martha.
But the disciples were surprised a couple of days later, when Jesus said, "Let us go to Judea again." What?!
They said to Him, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are you going there again?"
And He told them He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Do you think they believed Him? I don't. I think Thomas spoke for all the disciples when he said, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." They thought this was it. The end. Crazy, but hey, He's the Lord. We will follow Him and we will die with Him if necessary.
But they didn't die that day. They went to Bethany, and Jesus spoke the words that thrill our hearts, as believers in Him:
"I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die..."
And he raised Lazarus from the dead.
And later He died on the Cross. They finally got Him. They finally put an end to the One whom they said blasphemed because He said He was God. And the brave disciples who went to Bethany with Him, willing to die, cowered behind a closed door, mourning the loss of their Rabbi, and their dreams.
We appreciate His death now. We know that it paid for our sins. We cringe at the horror of the Innocent One being beaten and scourged and crucified and separated from His Father as He took the fury of the Wrath of God on Himself. We appreciate it. But we don't exactly celebrate it.
What we celebrate is that on the third day, He rose from the dead. He authenticated that He is Who He said He was. He is the Anointed One, God the Son, the Christ, the Messiah! And He is alive! And we say Hallelujah! He is risen!
Even as a historical event, it's noteworthy. But He did it for a purpose. He was "raised for our justification". He was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, that we might live. He said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. And in some mysterious way, when He died on the Cross, we died with Him, and when He was raised, we were raised with Him, and seated with Him in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.
We were made alive spiritually, with the promise that we will be raised physically as well, on that Great Gettin' Up Morning! We became New Creations! Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new! There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
And all because He died for our sins. He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ!
He Is Risen!
Thursday, April 05, 2012
Praise the Lord for the resurrection of Christ!
Consider this also. When Jesus died on the Cross on that Good Friday, and took the wrath of God on Himself...in some mysterious way...we were in Him.
We were crucified with Him, and we died. By the grace of God, our old self died, in Christ.
Then we, in Christ, went to the tomb. We were “buried with Him through baptism”...the baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.
Then when He was raised from the dead, we too were raised from the dead. Made alive to God through Christ Jesus.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together...--Eph. 2:4-6
In raising us up with Him, He gave us a whole new identity.
Where we were Sinners by nature, He made us Saints.
He made us His children, friends of Christ, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, in union with Him, adopted by Him, complete in Christ, free from condemnation, the righteousness of God in Christ, a branch of the Vine, chosen and appointed to bear fruit, the temple of the Holy Spirit, seated with Him in the heavenlies, God's workmanship, inseparable from the love of God, fully accepted in the Beloved.
We can assume no glory for it. All glory goes to the Lamb, who is worthy, who was slain from the foundation of the world.
We can know by faith that we are risen with Christ. And Easter, Resurrection Day, can have greater and greater meaning for us, when we see what God has accomplished in us.
Happy Resurrection Day!
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
by Michele Rayburn
We have died once to the penalty of sin, and so we have peace with God. (“I have been crucified with Christ...”)
We are able to die daily to the power of sin because we stand in grace. (“... it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...”)
And someday when we are present with the Lord, we will be free from the presence of sin. (“...and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God Who died for me and gave Himself for me.” - Galatians 2:20)
Jesus died once for our sins, and shed His blood for us, so that we can rest completely in His finished work on the cross.
Sometimes we as Christians live as if it isn't "finished". We live as if our sins are not forgiven, past, present and future. And we find ourselves trying to earn God's favor each day.
But we stand in grace, in a permanent state of forgiveness, precisely because "It is finished."
It's easy to read over Romans 5:10 rapidly and miss its point.
And yet it's one of the most sublime and poignant passages of Scripture.
"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
See, we were reconciled to God through the death of Christ. And that is a great truth. Our sins were paid for, the curtain of separation between us and God was taken out of the way. Nothing stood any longer between us and God.
Yet Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ was not risen from the dead, then we Christians would be pitiful, because we would still be dead in our sins.
How can this be? Wasn't His death on the Cross enough?
Being separated from God by our sins was only part of the problem. We also were spiritually dead. And even if our sins were paid for, it would have been no more valuable than paying for the Purina Dog Chow of a dead Doberman.
There also needed to be Life. New Life. A New Creation.
Being reconciled to God, as wonderful as that is, was not enough, and so the death of Jesus was not enough. He had to be risen from the dead, so that we too could be risen from our awful state, dead in our sins and trespasses.
"...according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead....even when we were dead in trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus...", (Ephesians 1:19,20; 2:5,6)
And so Jesus had to rise from the dead, or we would be lost. And fools. And blind leading the blind.
But He did rise from the dead.
And so we have not only the reconciling to God from the death of Christ, but our salvation through New Life, given as a free gift by God through the same power He used to raise Christ from the dead!
And so we have Romans 5:10, with profound meaning that might escape us if we simply read over it rapidly. Romans 5:10...
"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, WE SHALL BE SAVED BY HIS LIFE."
To All You Readers of Grace For Life,
We Love You.
He Is Risen!