Life, the Universe, and Everything, from the Outside In

Archive for the ‘salvation’ Category

Good Intentions, but. . .

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Another conversation while in Belfast: The idea was that since, “God looks at the hearts, all that really matters to Him is our intentions!”. For a moment, this almost sounds reasonable, but isn’t the “real” intention the one that “stands up?” In the conversation, he was saying that a preacher doesn’t really need to know doctrine as long as he “means well,” but,
  1. 1. If the Gospel is God’s power on Earth to save [Romans 1:16], so,
  2. 2. The Church exists to uphold the Truth [1 Timothy 3:15], then
  3. 3. All Word ministry is equally crucial- Study, Teaching, and Preaching[1 Tim. 4:13 & following], because (See #1). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Robert Easter

Monday, 18 August, 2008 at 0:17

What Gospel?

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Today we see a vast spread of what we call Christianity. Churches are springing up worldwide, largely influenced by the glut of “Good Christian Teaching” from the US. The problem, though, is seen in looking at the state of affairs in the US Church. Substance abuse, teen pregnancy, STDs and marriage breakdowns match if not outstrip the “sinners” who never darken a church door. The “Hardshell Baptist” has become a standard, and a bye-word, for American religion in general: Quick enough to state a position, but completely unable to give a reason for it which reflects in a godly life. The shell is there, and in good repair, but the yolk has been sucked out years ago, leaving what looks like a healthy egg, but neither food nor life inside.

Severe words? Yes indeed. Un-called-for? Then why do we have cities in the middle of the “Bible Belt” where churches outnumber filling stations, nearly 90% of the people report being “born again,” and the biggest two industries seem to be illegal drugs and prostitution? Why does the head of the Evangelical Alliance have to resign because of a queer sex scandal, the biggest “evangelists” on the media circle the wagons when asked about their finances, and one of their number pack a sports stadium while refusing to confess Christ as Savior on national television? Ranting? Yes. Called-for? What do you think? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Robert Easter

Sunday, 3 August, 2008 at 18:02

A Three-fold Cord ..Quickly Broken!

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In First John we read that the “world” that threatens the Christian life is composed of three elements: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Also, we read that this triple threat to the Faith is part of another group of three. This three-part “world” is married to both the devil and with our own fleshly natures to resist God’s redeeming work in our lives. Rather like a three-stranded rope set as a trap to bind and ensnare s! Faced with opposition like this, we have to ask some questions:


What was God thinking? He calls us to commit our lives to Him, to be converted away from all these evils, then here we are faced with resisting that kind of influence for the rest of our earthly lives?


How can we resist an enemy that is not only all around us, but is even part of who we are?


What is this “salvation,” anyway? Can we answer questions with a question? Is God unrighteous? We can easier ask if water is dry, or fire cold. We do see, though, that the enemy we face is not one to simply be resisted or tolerated “until we get to heaven,” because if we are resisting it as someone trying to stand against a stream of water, then we are soaked by the water, and involved in the stream, no matter how firmly we have planted our feet in its muddy bottom. No, God calls on the Church to overcome the world, not just to keep up a futile fight against it. Would God send His children into a battle expecting them to be defeated, or give them a task without giving them also the means to complete it?

Second, we see that we are fighting an enemy which involves itself in the very basis of who we are. Did God come in the flesh only to save our souls? Is the God Who created this Universe not able to redeem our bodies as well as our spirits? If we only trust Him to do those things which we cannot see, then how is our understanding of God any better than make-believe? No, He Who would redeem our souls from destruction would also redeem our souls from the corruption of sin, as He says,

Salvation means victory: Partaking in real life in Jesus’ real life victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. Overcoming means being free from their influence, and in full possession of all that our enemies had taken from us. Jesus said He had come “to destroy the works of the devil,” and that those who trust Him “would not lack any good thing,” but rather would “be made partakers in His divine nature.” This truth is woven even into the very fabric of the Word!

We read in Revelation that the holy martyrs had overcome in three ways: “by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Three, met with three. First, the Blood is applied to our lives by faith, which is activated by our confession. Romans tells us that if we do believe to salvation then we will confess Him as Lord. The Early Church believed, and spread the Faith across the Roman Empire in the first generation. But there remains one more part to these three: “They loved not their lives to the death.” What does this mean? The first eleven chapters of Romans go into some detail about the faith which we receive from the Lord, and then the twelfth tells us what is our “reasonable service,” or response, to such a gift. Our lives are not our own! Our abandoning the worldly, fleshly, devilish, life for the life of Christ is what Holy Baptism is all about. But is a little water, or the grace relating to Church membership all that is involved in that Revelation picture? If so, then there must be a lot more to it than meets the eye! Hebrews mentions, among the “first principles,” the “doctrine of baptisms.” Why plural, when Ephesians says, “one baptism?” So far in this discussion we have seen several examples of the triune image in scripture: the world, the flesh, and the devil; the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life; and now the three weapons used to defeat that devil: the power they found in blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and the power they found in self-abandonment (that is, faith in Christ) which we see in Holy Baptism. So what is this first principle of baptisms? First, let us look at the water. The Bible tells us that in baptism we are buried and rise with Jesus, but that leaves us with a problem: We see millions of people who have been baptised at some point in their lives, but how many reflect the love of God in their lives? Romans tells us that those who are baptised into Christ live in the same power that raised Him from the grave! We also read that it is not baptism that saves, but “the answer of a good conscience before God.” So is there another part to this picture? We also read that Christians are baptised by the Holy Spirit into Christ. This is a separate point in our histories from water baptism. In the first, an elder in the Church visibly introduces us into the visible church through the use of water. In the second, the Spirit of the Living God invisibly brings us into Christ Himself by means only He can use. We call this conversion. Before He ascended, Jesus, “breathed on (His disciples) and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” From this point, even after having spent all that time learning at Jesus’ feet and having received the Spirit (..if any have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His!), they were not ready to be Christians! Jesus did not tell them to go out and be His witnesses, to heal the sick, cast out devils, or even to tell a soul about Him, but to return, and wait, in Jerusalem for “the Promise of the Father!” Even after having received the Spirit, in a short ten days the “over five hundred” there seem to have been on the mountain had dwindled to a hundred twenty. Minutes after the Promise was given, there were over three thousand souls added. What made the difference? The Third Baptism! John the Baptiser (No, he was not a Baptist, or any other denomination) said that he baptised with water, but the Christ would baptise with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. This Third Baptism, completes the trinity of the “one baptism” as promised, and as received. Why do so many Christians struggle with sin in their lives when the Bible speaks so much about freedom from sin’s control? Why are so many too timid about the whole salvation picture to speak about it, or even live it out, in their everyday lives? They may have some experience of the converting baptism by the Spirit into Christ, and they may have been through the confessing washing of water into the Church, but are they completely baptised? They have a position in Christ, and they have a place in the Church, but do they have the power of the Spirit? This is not some new doctrine from the charismanic corner, but a clear command to all the Church, “Be filled with the Spirit!

Written by Robert Easter

Wednesday, 28 May, 2008 at 9:14

The Image

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There are several ways that God uses to communicate with people, and several ways that people use to keep from hearing His voice. Why is that? Maybe there’s something deep inside the human soul that wants to throw a tantrum over any suggestion that it might not actually be God after all. We’ve all known people like that, and maybe we could even say we’ve been people like that at some time.

The first thing created, says Genesis, was light. Jesus gives light to everyone born in this world. God wants us to be enlightened. We can’t enlighten ourselves, but He wants to enlighten our hearts with His own presence.

At the Creation, we understand that God made mankind, both genders, in the image of God. Through sin, that Image is damaged, but we still long to create, and to love, and we love to see things of beauty, and deep down we know things that are true when nothing we learn in school supports them. There is such a thing as goodness, and marriage is respectable, and stealing is bad form regardless. Not just because there are laws, but there are laws because.

People with that “thing” in their souls, that thing called “sin” that is all about thinking it’s in charge of it all, want to suppress that Image of a God beside themselves to the degree that the sin claims first place. It’s interesting that, no matter how far we are separated from the One who is, ultimately, our Father, we always carry a picture of Him in our hearts.

Since we are, to the extent of being made in Him image, His children, He loves us and delights to see His good points develop in us. Unlike an earthly dad, this Father has no bad points, so there’s none of that “Do as I say and not as I do” bit. But He loves us, and wants to see good in us for our own sakes, and to better communicate that likeness to the rest of us. When people talk about human dignity, or the sanctity of life, this is exactly the reason. We (ought to) respect one another far more than Da Vinci’s heirs respect the Mona Lisa, or the most fervent patriots their flag. Because of the image of God upon the soul of every human being we respect their life and dignity, and because of that image upon us we think, and live, in ways that allow that likeness to develop in us.

If this is new to you, then it is first of all a matter of a child-Father relationship with God. This is the reason that Jesus came, to take away our sins and restore that relationship in all that are willing to become His children by a spiritual birth and not just from being of the human species. Those who come into that relationship begin to realise that it is the one reason for their (our) existence, as everything else does not just “pale in comparison” as a poet might say of some human devotion, but everything else actually fits together makes sense as it never could before. We can enjoy relationships with others on a whole new level, and also with thought, science, and the Universe in general. Like the old bit of Christian liturgy, “All things come from Thee, O God, and from thine own have we given Thee!”

By the way, here’s a grabber for you!

Written by Robert Easter

Monday, 5 May, 2008 at 7:14

Jesus Plus?

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Reading this week about a Chicago church that has been in the news recently, the sign out front reportedly advertises it as “Unashamedly Black and Uncompromisingly Christian.” From this “uncompromised” position it last year gave a vocal enemy of Israel, of the Christian Faith, and of his own native US a special award just for “embodying greatness!”

The rub was there from the start: To be Christian is to belong to Christ, Who said, “No man can serve two masters.” Surely every Christian is at some point of growing in that direction, but what if he or she isn’t? We can be grateful to God for our circumstances, whether it be our ethnic background, level of wealth or lack of it, our skills, any number of things. But to add anything to our faith in Christ as essential to who we are (which this pastor was plainly doing, to the great expense of the Gospel): Isn’t that to say that our kind of Christian is better than your “kind?”

It used to be a common phrase in preaching, “Jesus plus nothing.” The point then was that our salvation is based on Jesus, and only on Jesus, rather than setting our confidence in our own devotions and initiatives. Paul, in Galatians, warned that church that if they set their confidence in Jesus plus anything for their salvation they put themselves in a position of making that other thing their savior, and if we could gain Heaven any other way than by the Cross, then Jesus died for nothing. In other words, as Paul put it, “you have fallen from grace.”

Am I writing this to condemn that preacher? Before the Lord, and before the Lord only, he stands or falls. What, then? That loving God is a lifestyle decision, outside and in. There are two races on this planet: Them that are born once, and them that are born twice, the second by the Spirit of God. There are two nations, or kingdoms, in this world. The kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of righteousness, and the kingdom of sin, which is of the devil. There is no room for compromise: in military terms what is considered lost, and a compromised person a traitor. But why would anyone consider compromise, or even gaze off in that direction? The kingdom of God is “righteousness, peace, and joy,” everything our human heart could ever hope for, and, “in the Holy Ghost,” means that it is the very love of God Himself that is there to perfect us in His love. “For the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Written by Robert Easter

Saturday, 26 April, 2008 at 15:38

Free in the Middle!

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Lately we hear people saying that the Bible is just a book, but it is only in Jesus that God revealed Himself. It is generally packaged in language that would sound a lot nicer, saying the Christ, alone, is the Word, or that the Bible is made of physical stuff like paper and ink, so how can we really trust it. Interestingly, a lot of these folks happen to have some paper and ink hanging on a wall someplace, which they expect to be taken quite seriously.

So what do we have, if we “only” have Jesus as God’s revelation? First off, without the 300+ Bible prophecies He fulfilled we’ve already overlooked some amazing credentials. Then we would also lose His history within the Old Testament record as there are a number of incidents in which He shows up as a special messenger for God, whether as the “Captain of the Lord’s hosts” to Joshua, the mysterious Melchizadek who met Abraham, and to whom Abraham gave a tithe (tenth part) of all he had gained in a miraculous victory of his servants against the kings of three cities, or any of many others. Then still we have Jesus quoting and authenticating the writings we’ve just been told aren’t authentic. Can we have it both ways? If God has spoken to us at all, then Jesus Christ is right in the middle of God’s revelation of Himself, as God personally, come as a man for mankind!

On the Cross, Jesus lived out what David wrote in Psalm 22 (among other places), and what Isaiah described in chapter 53 (among other places), and then rose again as predicted (again…). When He did rise, He told His disciples that it was necessary that He die and rise again as predicted in the Prophets, and that He would be returning to set all things right. If we take a serious look at Bible prophecy we find that hundreds of warnings and promises have already comeabout concerning captivities and returns, setting up and bringing down of kingdoms, and especially of Jesus’ coming as the “Son of Joseph,” the suffering Messiah. The promises of His Return, and the resurrection of all the dead (the righteous to eternal life, the rebellious to eternal torment) are just as sure, with His own resurrection as living proof that God is able to do even that.

So what do we do with that? Thomas had his doubts, but when confronted with the living Christ could only say, “My Lord and my God!” Thousands since him have gone the same way: They had their doubts, but when they were faced with that one Reality gave up their own worn-out opinions (as they suddenly saw them to be) for the Truth of God. When we consider what is in the balance, this is definitely one question that is worth finding out. Like Jesus said, “They will now the truth, and the truth will make them free,” and, “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed!”

Written by Robert Easter

Sunday, 20 April, 2008 at 18:04

Three Options, One Choice

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When Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life:” He chose His words very carefully.

The: Not that He said a way, as if there are “many paths to God,” but neither did He say “my teachings are the way!

Way: He Himself is the road to God.

The truth: Again the exclusive. Any notion is true, relative to this one truth. Himself!

The life: What does this say about those “outside?”

He then emphasised, “No one comes (not goes) to the Father but by Me.”

And, notice, He started off that statement with a phrase that fit the conversation disturbingly well!

A popular song some years back said, “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” If right were a matter of opinion, then nobody could really, be right, could they? What would “right” mean? A plurality of opinion votes? 51%? Full agreement?

If we were to “campaign” for truth, then surely Jesus would have some great qualities as a teacher, but a lot of things He said about His own person and purpose don’t let us stop there. While skeptics today doubt all the miracle stories and “I am” statements in the Gospels, we must remember that there were enough witnesses to those miracles, and to the Resurrection, that for the first several hundred years the Church didn’t have to argue for His divinity, but His humanity. There seems to have been no doubt about the Resurrection, even among the enemies of the Faith. If the priests or the sect leaders could have opposed that notion, surely with their thousands of followers it would not have taken a week to find the body, but nobody seems to have even tried. Their concern, from all accounts, was for “damage control” /after the fact!/

So what do we do with this claim? As somebody put it, either He’s a liar, a lunatic, or Lord of all. If His had been another messianic movement, then why was such love, and not power or authority His main thrust, even when His followers were ready to launch a revolt in His name? And surely, any other man would have confessed under the torture He endured, hoping at least for a quicker death. Besides that, a politico or scam artist would have been a bit more careful to tell people things they could understand, and not rock the boat so badly. He rocked everybody’s boat, from the far left to the far right in religion and politics!

A lunatic, then? What He had to say was too consistent, and the root of mental illness seems to be a heightened sense of pride or self-preservation. He taught about “laying down one’s life,” and demonstrated it! A “great teacher” would have spent more time on discourses, but He basically affirmed the moral law and its foundation in the Jewish Bible, and went so far as to say it applies to our hearts as well as our hands, and that He was come to be the ultimate holocaust: the sacrifice victim that would finally take our sins away. Radical, but definitely not crazy.

Logically, that only leaves us with Lordship. But what do we do with that? History gives us three options. We may, like many of the rulers of that day, oppose His message (can we divide the Person from His message, if the Person is true?) in a scramble to maintain control regardless of either truth or consequences. For such a person, I have only the deepest pity. Others somehow insist on dis-believing these things based on things they have read or heard. Those who make this choice I would beg, on bended knee, to check your sources. There is a lot of publishing that is based on a writer’s attempt to prove what they already choose to believe, but this is a matter much more important than merely picking opinions like sports teams, though some do enter into it that lightly.

The third option is simple belief. He has said it, and proven it, and history supports it. Belief though, is not a mere opinion, but a life: A life lodged within the Life!

Written by Robert Easter

Sunday, 13 April, 2008 at 8:40