Wednesday, April 22, 2009

THE STRUGGLE WITHIN

Some think the rapture comes before the tribulation. Others think it comes after.

I believe in the doctrine of "once saved, always saved". That doctrine is based on the premise, that once you commit your life to Christ, as God has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you". ~ Hebrews 13:5b

Some people believe in the doctrine that one can fall from grace and need to be saved again and again.

Glory was a legend in the Alabama hills.
Famous for her moonshine and the quality distilled.
If you had arthritic tingents for monetary gain
She'd sell you corn whiskey for the pain.
But come camp meetin' time
O, Glory, how she'd shine.
They called her 'Shoutin' Glo' at meetin' time.

Shoutin' "Glory, glory, I am saved, Hallelujah!"
One week in the summer, she would walk that line!
Come the second Monday in the month you'd hear her cry,
"Camp meetin's over grab a jug, let's have a time!"

Those lyrics to a rather obscure bluegrass song by Red, White, and Bluegrass, describe a false interpretation of what I call the, "fall from Grace" doctrine

Both Doctrinal beliefs are problematic in much the same way.

One could take advantage of the "once saved" doctrine, by returning to their old life because they are now confident they are safe from God's ultimate judgment. I submit that he who practices (for want of a better word) this belief, probably isn't really saved at all.

There is, after all, a difference between a head knowledge and a heart knowledge.

One who believes the "fall from Grace" doctrine, will oft times "raise Hell" During the week and get saved again every Sunday morning. I've known people who actually do this.

The problem with this doctrine, I think, (because I don't believe this doctrine so, I don't really know) is that it would seem to imply, once again, that the practitioner of this doctrine is, as in the other doctrine, not really saved. But, it is more based on emotion than the other.

There are times in my life that I wonder if I'm really saved because often I go for long periods of time when I act like anything but a Christian. That worries me, but then, I think, if I worry about that, I must be a Christian, because the unbeliever who doesn't follow God wouldn't worry about such a thing.

Circular reasoning, perhaps?

In other words, it is often healthy to have doubts. But worrisome.

I don't like that worrisome feeling.

These days, as I approach ever closer to my time of death, and the signs of the end times seem to rush at us with increasing rapidity, I am currently in a period where I am focusing more on trying to live my life in such a way that others can see Jesus in me.

That is a Christian's best testimony, in my humble opinion.

I think my Christianity needs a shot in the arm, metaphorically speaking, ever so often, and more and more often as we inch closer to Christ's return.

There are other times when I believe there can be no doubt as to my salvation because I seem to have a deeper understanding of the nature of God than others who profess their Christianity.

Christians know there is a knowledge of the nature of God that simply hasn't been imparted to those who have a mere head knowledge of God rather than a heart knowledge.

And the infuriating thing about that, to me, is that there seems to be no way that I can pass that particular knowledge on to those who profess their Christianity, but don't seem to understand it the way I do. This would explain why I often get frustrated and angry with those whom I discuss these belief systems.

I'm not saying I know more than anyone else. I most assuredly don't. But there are certain things about the nature of God of which I seem to have a firm grasp, that many "intellectual" Biblical scholars don't seem to grasp at all.

That is perplexing to me, but then, God does say there are things the unbeliever simply can't understand without the indwelling of the Spirit in their lives. So, those scholars who have oh so much more head knowledge and book learning about the nature of God than I do, appear totally unaware of what to me seems so simple.

Am I right? Am I wrong? I truly don't know.

And so, I toss the dice and hedge my bets by leaning toward what I believe to be the right side. The side described by Christ in the sermon on the mount, so I can be better prepared (if one can be prepared at all) for the second coming of Christ, or the rapture, whichever comes first.

If the rapture comes first, I can only pray that I am strong enough when I am faced with a very real challenge to choose between my life and my faith.

Again, this is something I truly don't know, however, in real life situations when I have been faced with the choice of professing my faith or suffer varying degrees of persecution for what I believe, I have passed the test, and bravely professed my Christianity.

But those are poor examples. Those situations didn't involve actual physical pain or the threat of death. Could I, as Rachel Scott, at Columbine High School in Colorado did, look certain death in the face and say, without hesitation, "Yes, I believe in God"?

I'd much rather Jesus come back first, so I don't have to find out the hard way.

Either way, we'll all just have to wait, watch, and see.

12 comments:

Timothy said...

Hi Mark,
Don't worry about the promotion of this blog at my place. I have no problems with that at all.

That said, you have opened a lot of cans of worms. You have a lot to say on the subject of our salvation and the assurance we have. I believe you are dead on when you discuss the fact that you wonder, worry about being saved at all. Those who are not, really don't worry about it all that much.

Can true believers fall away? I don't believe so. Can those who grew up in the church, professed faith, acted like believers, etc., then fall away? You bet.

I think the WCF deals with this beautifully when it discusses the visible and invisible church. We would say that those who are members of the invisible church, never fall away. While those who are merely members of the visible church, never were truly there.

You really have touched on a lot here. I need to think about more of it.
Great post.

Timothy said...

BTW, I posted a blot on my thoughts on the comment, "once saved, always saved."

Joe said...

Mark: I have the definitive answer to the question of the sequence of end times: I don't know.

As to once saved, always saved I have this observation:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world tht He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have temporary life..." No,that's not right.

"For God so loved the world tht He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have on-again-off-again life..." No,that's not right, either.

"For God so loved the world tht He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Oh, yeah...that's what it says!

Now the only question remains does one TRUELY believe?

If so, you know what you get.

Most Rev. Gregori said...

Mark, I can only give you the Orthodox Catholic view on this topic.
In the Orthodox Church, we have baptism, but we believe that just because one is baptized, does not guarantee and automatic ticket to heaven because we are all sinners and baptism does not erase mankind's sin nature (tendency to sin), But by accepting Christ's gift of Salvation, we have the opportunity to repent or turn away from the sins we commit. This is a never-ending process because temptation to sin is always there.

I believe that even if one accepts the Lord, they can still lose their salvation through apostasy and failure to have true repentance and remorse.

I have seen so many Churches today that preach a "feel good" type of gospel, in which they teach that "Jesus loves you just as you are." They never mention repentance or remorse, thus, their congregations "come" to the Lord, ask Jesus into their lives, but continue to blatantly and openly live their sinful lives. This has allowed sin to enter into the church, (just look at how many churches today not only tolerate and accept homosexuality in their midst, but will also bless homosexual unions or perform same-sex marriages. Many churches today all accept and support abortion as well as many other sinful behavior, all because they believe that Jesus loves them just as they are. They forget that Jesus loved the sinner but hated the sin. So, even if one accepts the Lord but does not repent or feel remorse, are they really saved?

I have even known people who have said that they will live their life doing what they want, and then at some point near the end of their life, they will accept the Lord and be saved. Is that then, true repentance?

Then again, since we mere mortals cannot read the contents of the heart of others, then only God knows for sure.

Marshall Art said...

I wrestle with this often. Do I really believe with all my heart? I feel I do with my mind, as I believe it's hard to dismiss the evidence in favor of Christ not only having existed, but having existed as described in Scripture.

Yet the temptations still lure, and the flesh is too often too weak to resist. My imperfections are covered by His Blood, my head says, but my heart still wanders now and then (maybe more than that).

It is one thing to say "once saved, always saved", but I think the problem lies in knowing for sure. I have no doubt that there exist those for whom their receiving Christ and the Holy Ghost into their lives has filled them with such holy joy that they would never turn away and are truly married to faith in tangible, visible way.

I wish it were so for me. As it is, believing in the manner I do makes it easy to resist some temptations. I no longer feel the need to act in certain ways for the benefit of other people, that is, to impress, and I feel it is easy to stand for what I believe is true (about God and His Will for us on earth for example), though sometimes I wonder if I'm doing THAT to impress.

One thing for sure is that right and wrong is easy when I leave it to God. I've found there exist few, if any, really true examples of "gray areas" now. Perhaps that is evidence of my level of belief.

"Once saved, always saved" is mostly just an expression. It's easy to say that if one backslides never to return that one was never saved at all. It's also easy to say that should one never succomb to temptation that one was truly saved, when some simply never were interested in some of the things that tempt the rest of us. My wife, for example, never toked and never cared to try. She also was never the type to be turned on by the excitement of late nights and mischief. Is she more holy or just boring? All that time, however, she gave little thought to the Lord; that came later. So for a while, she was in many ways "more Christian" than myself who never really lost the notion of a Supreme Being overlooking all I do, while still doing much He prohibits.

I think I am saved because I know God exists and I've asked His only begotten Son to be my Savior. But I feel I'm the same scumbag I've always been and need to make conscious decisions to act in a Christian manner at all times. If not for the covenant I'd be a goner for sure since I'm lousy at living like a Christian. But I know that every day I have to make those conscious decisions to be Christian to the best of my ability. I choose it every day because otherwise I might fall away.

Susannah said...

"...believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31

It can be really simple. I trust that the Holy Spirit will work growth in my life as I journey day by day with Jesus. My job is to listen, be yielding & to pray to do each of those better.

As for falling away: of course I'm going to, but I'm always in His hand. And when I come back, a prodigal, God's Grace - supplied in Christ Jesus - is sufficient for me. (Glory!)

My assurance is in my precious Savior, & His wonderful, mysterious, all-powerful Holy Spirit. Glory Hallelujah!

Z said...

all the thief had to say, hanging on the cross next to Jesus Christ, was "...remember me.."..that's all!..and he would be with Christ in paradise forever.

That makes an impression on me.

That, and, when I have (incredible and uncomfortable) doubts from time to time, who do I pray to for more faith, to 'bring back that excitement and sureness'? HIM.

I think we all have to believe better in His promises...as Susannah and Joe beautifully said..

thanks for an excellent post...I'd like to visit again! Blessings! Z

Mark said...

And thank you, Z, (and the rest of you) for visiting. I really don't post here as often as I should. I guess I worry more about the political world than I do about my own soul.

I'll try to post here more often.

For the record, I have no real doubts about my Christianity. Sometimes I wonder about things and I simply posted what I sometimes think about, honestly.

I think everyone has doubts at times about their Christianity, or certainly about their own personal devotion. If we didn't, how could we grow in our faith?

Z said...

OKAY, this was SOO good..time for another, Mark! (no pressure :0)

ELAshley said...

As to once saved always saved: Assuming one is genuinely saved:

One question: Did Jesus ever make a request of His father that God did not honor?

Consider:

Read John 17 carefully. He's praying for His disciples immediately prior to His arrest. Consider these verses specifically... 15-21

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

2 Thessalonians 3:3: But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

Jude 24: Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy

Consider also that the Church vanishes from the text of Revelation after chapter 3. From chapter 4 on, until the Lord's return, all the wrath set upon the world is against the UNRIGHTEOUS, and God deals with the Jews throughout-- this is the time of Jacob's Trouble, when the world will be drawn toward Jerusalem to put an end to the world's wrath against her. Yes, there are those who come to faith during the tribulation but no mention of the Church. These are those who come to faith, AFTER Christ has called his bride. The virgins who weren't ready were left behind

Also consider two precedents to the Church being raptured prior to the Tribulation:

The salvation of Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives, from the wrath of God.

The removal of Lot and his family prior to Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction.

Hailing back to a previous thought, consider the fact that the Church is Christ's bride. Knowing what we know of Christ, that He has gone to prepare a place for us (a very Hebrew custom at the time for grooms), is it the least bit reasonable to think that Christ would allow ANYTHING to happen to His bride prior to coming to fetch her? What is the point of all those sayings about being prepared because He comes like a thief in the night? The parable of the wise and foolish virgins?

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Matt 25:10-12

Who went in with the Bridegroom, the virgins who went to get oil for their lamps? or the ones who were ready, lamps ready and wicks trimmed?

I believe it CAN be said that men fall away from "grace," but I also know that, according to all I've said here, God is able to keep all who are truly his (Jude 24) from falling; that according to Jesus' prayer God WILL keep all who are Christs' from evil (not immediately take them out of the world the moment they are saved by Grace); that Jesus Himself has clearly differentiated between those who are truly his, and those who are not (wise, verses foolish virgins). Also, there is precedent for God sparing a minority from His wrath.

And that's all I got to say about that.

ELAshley said...

In two parts:

As to once saved always saved: Assuming one is genuinely saved:

One question: Did Jesus ever make a request of His father that God did not honor?

Consider:

Read John 17 carefully. He's praying for His disciples immediately prior to His arrest. Consider these verses specifically... 15-21

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

2 Thessalonians 3:3: But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

Jude 24: Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy

Consider also that the Church vanishes from the text of Revelation after chapter 3. From chapter 4 on, until the Lord's return, all the wrath set upon the world is against the UNRIGHTEOUS, and God deals with the Jews throughout-- this is the time of Jacob's Trouble, when the world will be drawn toward Jerusalem to put an end to the world's wrath against her. Yes, there are those who come to faith during the tribulation but no mention of the Church. These are those who come to faith, AFTER Christ has called his bride. The virgins who weren't ready were left behind

Also consider two precedents to the Church being raptured prior to the Tribulation:

The salvation of Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives, from the wrath of God.

The removal of Lot and his family prior to Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction.

Continued...

ELAshley said...

In two parts:

As to once saved always saved: Assuming one is genuinely saved:

One question: Did Jesus ever make a request of His father that God did not honor?

Consider:

Read John 17 carefully. He's praying for His disciples immediately prior to His arrest. Consider these verses specifically... 15-21

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

2 Thessalonians 3:3: But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

Jude 24: Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy

Consider also that the Church vanishes from the text of Revelation after chapter 3. From chapter 4 on, until the Lord's return, all the wrath set upon the world is against the UNRIGHTEOUS, and God deals with the Jews throughout-- this is the time of Jacob's Trouble, when the world will be drawn toward Jerusalem to put an end to the world's wrath against her. Yes, there are those who come to faith during the tribulation but no mention of the Church. These are those who come to faith, AFTER Christ has called his bride. The virgins who weren't ready were left behind

Also consider two precedents to the Church being raptured prior to the Tribulation:

The salvation of Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives, from the wrath of God.

The removal of Lot and his family prior to Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction.

Continued...