The cynicism and critical attitude startled me. It certainly did not feel like the “I love the church” that had come from the man at the end of the table. Something had happened to me.

Who am I to judge the bride chosen by my King? Well, I am an elder; there is some responsibility there. But it is surprising how genuine concern can morph into something genuinely unacceptable.

Yes, she has become sickly. She has infected herself with worldly diseases from which her Bridegroom died and lives to make her free. And yes, even her healthier members continue to fight with one another over seemingly limited resources, when her Betrothed has access to supernatural riches. There is much to be concerned about.

Still, the cynicism and critical attitude surprised me; and it shouldn’t have. The critical spirit I allowed and nurtured for so many years, though exposed and deconstructed, has been lurking about in my subconscious, waiting for any opportunity to feed itself. I have seen it before. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

As best as I can discern, here is what happened to me. I love my King, and I want Him to have the bride He desires and deserves. Her behavior bothers me. I know – we all know – she can and will be better. But when? Why has she neglected her preparation? Why has she allowed herself to be distracted and drawn away?

My carnal mind – that sneaky little trickster – stirred up the critical spirit in me, focusing my attention on the ugliness. Loving concern turned to cynicism, and I lost the Lover’s perspective. Now, do not misunderstand me; I am not making excuses. The new man that I am in Jesus Christ is responsible for recognizing and overcoming my flesh and its mind. Diligence is required, and I let my guard down.

The enemy that lies within is too easily underestimated. Without the grace of God, we are all dangerously exposed. His grace brought me out of this deception. It is important to note that His grace came in fellowship, at a meeting I was not that excited about attending. His grace got me there, and His grace exposed my cynicism and critical attitude. By His grace, I now enjoy an attitude adjustment. I am grateful.

Is the bride sick? Yes, that is certainly a fair assessment in this part of the world. I was not the only one at the meeting that expressed concern. But, and this is the point, their concerns were wrapped in love – their love and the King’s love for the bride.

I love the church. That is my renewed profession. By God’s grace, she will be stunningly beautiful. The King will have the one He desires and deserves. Loving judgment is a part of her preparation. Always loving.

God bless you with love for your King, and loving concern for His bride.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

I recently participated in a Facebook “conversation” regarding the value of Christ’s death in our salvation. Trying to encourage the other participants to look beyond the cross to the life that saves us, I referenced Romans 5:8-10.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when 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.

Confusion ensued, ultimately leading to this question: Rob, do you accept that one can have assurance of their salvation?

As most of you know, I try to “just be the pen” in everything I write. God was faithful to direct my fingers in the following response. I hope it encourages you to share with others. We need to be having these kinds of discussions in the body of Christ.

Our Answer (slightly edited): Of course you can have assurance of salvation, assuming God’s conditions are met (e.g., endure to the end (Matthew 10:22), abide and bear fruit (John 15:1-8), do not bury your talents (Matthew 25:24-30), avoid falling away (2Thessalonians 2:1-4)). In case you were wondering, I do not see these as the Christian’s work to procure salvation. They are the work of God appropriated by our continuing faith (which is also a gift, Ephesians 2:8-9).

Still, salvation requires participation (Philippians 2:12-13 describes this beautifully). Striving to enter is necessary (Luke 13:24). We must be diligent to add to our faith and make our call and election sure (2Peter 1:5-11). This is only possible in Christ and by the power of His resurrected life.

I fear that many are loitering around the cross, either worshipping the instrument of death or trying to worship a savior who is no longer there. They are not being instructed and encouraged to move on down the difficult road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14).

The old man must be buried and the carnal mind subdued – both works of the Spirit, requiring our submission (Romans 8:13; Romans 12:2; 2Corinthians 3:18). We must walk in the newness of life that has been offered (Romans 6:4). That life is not our own (Mark 8:35). It is the resurrected life of Jesus Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live… (Galatians 2:20)

And so, the bottom-line answer is: The one who continues to surrender, sacrifice, and submit their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ can have certain assurance of their salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lord is trying in this life – during our time on Earth – to prepare us for the age to come, to guide our investments for the most heavenly gain, and to secure the greatest opportunity for service in the kingdom of God for all of eternity (Matthew 25:14-30). We have limited time to benefit from God’s good work in us, individually and corporately.

Faith is given in measure (Romans 12:3). God is a generous giver, but I dare say He is not wasteful. Perhaps we receive in proportion to the measure we give back in surrender, submission, sacrifice, obedience, etc. Our participation with Him requires time and attention. We do not understand the opportunity cost of earthly distractions, or we are simply foolish Christians (you can think immature, if you wish).

…we have such a short time to prepare for such a long time. By that I mean we have now to prepare for then. We have an hour to prepare for eternity. To fail to prepare is an act of moral folly. For anyone to have a day given to prepare, it is an act of inexcusable folly to let anything hinder that preparation. A. W. Tozer

For example, why do we labor to make more money than we need on this side of eternity? Not to dismiss the potential value of inheritance, but how much is enough? Only God knows what will benefit or harm those that remain. As with all important decisions, we must leave our vocation and its length in God’s hands. We are in desperate need of spiritual ears that recognize God’s voice.

Personally, I will be 60 years old this year. Jesus has been my savior for almost 50 years, and I have been submitted to the Father’s work for more that 35 of those. That seems like a long time. Still, I have not matured as much as I would like. I have allowed too much distraction and compromise.

I wonder how much I have missed and squandered. Paul encourages us to run the race to win. I feel as though I must pick up the pace if I am to finish anywhere near what winning looks like. Based on the promises and expectations revealed in Scripture (e.g., John 14:12), I am under-achieving by a considerable margin.

By the way, we are not competing against others for the winner’s prize, but with ourselves, with what God has determined is our potential (one, five, or ten talents).

This may be heard as a “do more” injunction. That is a dangerous notion (and I am not exaggerating). The Bible’s encouragement is to know God more and to participate more in what He is doing. There is an “even more” life (Romans 5:8-10). Seeking God with our whole heart requires time and attention, not more doing. Read the rest of this entry »

I am going to resist the temptation to restate the thesis of this three-part article and direct you back to Part One. There you will find a useful introduction and the individual application of what we are calling the anchor (think house, not ship) of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.

Part Two explores the bridge between the individual application of Part One and the community application we are exploring in this last part. The order is important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. So, once you have read Parts One and Two, you should be ready to dig in here.

Community Application

As we begin, it is important to note that, as it is with individuals, fellowships small, large, and in between, are also instructed and encouraged to offer themselves to God – to be used as corporate instruments of His sacrificial love. Furthermore, resisting conformity with the world and being transformed are best accomplished in community. In fact, it is impossible for individuals who are “members of one another” to be transformed separate from one another.

Now on to Romans 12:4-8.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8

The “for” found at the beginning of this passage connects our humble and sober thinking to our functioning as God intends in the community of faith. Some members may have more visibility or a seemingly more important function; others, less. In humility, we recognize that this is an unimportant consideration. Indeed, as we learn from 1Corinthians 12:23, greater honor is bestowed on those we think to be less honorable. This is sober thinking.

There are three considerations here that warrant our attention. First, there is our unity. We are not only members of “one body in Christ”, but “individually members of one another”. Spiritually, regardless of function, there are no boundaries between us. Our unity is a mystery beyond reason; only by faith and practice do we know it to be true.

Through faith, we function together in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13). This is the desire, vision, and attitude of Jesus Christ. As we lay hold of the mind of Christ, we are anchored to the theological foundation, in Romans one through eleven, that He has established for our life in community. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading through Part One of this article, I discovered an oversight. Having referenced Romans 12:1-3 as the personal perspective of the Romans “anchor”, I failed to comment on verse three. As it turns out, verse three can be viewed as a bridge. So, rather than go back and update Part One, we will cover it here before exploring the church-in-fellowship perspective of Romans 12:4-8 in Part Three.

Those of you that have not already read Part One will find it a useful introduction. The order is important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. Furthermore, there is a connection between the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2) and the way we are to think in the community of faith.

Humble and Sober Thinking

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3

As we endeavor to transition from theology to its practice, we must consider our mind and how it thinks. We have already learned from verse two that our mind requires renewal; it is not prepared for the life our theology requires. For many, this is a bitter pill to swallow. We have been encouraged since our formative years to trust our minds and our innate ability to reason. Our carnal mind has convinced us that it deserves the control most of mankind has given it.

We think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We desperately need to sober up and recognize that much of our thinking is humanistic. Even in the church, we have come to rely on the doctrines of man. We attempt to live out of our reason, rather than our faith. It is high time we become suspicious of the way we think, because much of our thinking is outside the faith.

Consequently, the introduction of faith at the end of the verse above would seem strange to many in the church. What does a measure of faith have to do with the way we think? Our perplexity demonstrates how far we have drifted from the truth concerning our heart and mind. We have allowed our blame-shifting carnal mind to convince us that our heart is corrupt.

But, how can this be? What do the Scriptures tell us? Read the rest of this entry »

You may notice an oversight in this first part: after referencing verse three, I failed to explore its meaning. Part two addresses this mistake. Please do not let it distact you here. 

Anchors may be the least thought about, most important component of a building. In tornado or flood, the best built home on the strongest foundation will suffer tragic destruction without adequate anchoring. The same applies to spiritual construction. We can be sure that Jesus Christ, as the Master Builder of His church, has provided adequate “anchor” between structure and foundation. One such anchor can be found in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

I recently discovered something about Romans that many of you might already know. The first eleven chapters contain Paul’s theological foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The remaining five chapters then describe the church structure that Christ is building. This being the case, we can understand and explore the first eight verses of Romans 12 as the metaphorical anchor that secures the structure of the church to its theological foundation.

From a process perspective, this portion of Paul’s letter serves as a transition stage, containing the personal and corporate worldview, attitudes, and commitments required to become the church Paul envisions – the manifested reality of his most comprehensive theology. Moving from Paul’s revelation of the gospel to its application, one must pass through this mandatory stage. It is, therefore, critical for us to understand how to apply this anchor in our personal lives and in the spheres of influence entrusted to us.

Generally, this passage presents two perspectives. The first three verses speak to the individual; the remainder to the church in fellowship. This order seems important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. That is not to suggest that the former can be accomplished outside of community encouragement and accountability. As Paul states in verses four and five, we are members of one body and members of one another.

In this article, we will focus on the personal application of the Romans anchor. Read the rest of this entry »

I have spent much of my Christian life believing the false hyperbole of God’s unconditional love. Why? Because this notion has been promoted by many well-meaning icons of the faith, and repeated by many well-meaning pastors and teachers. And frankly, it just sounds good to me.

The problem is, neither the sound of a truth claim, nor the well-meaning behind its proclamation, makes a truth claim true.

At this point, I suspect more than a few of you are disturbed by this counter claim. That is what happens when our more comfortable paradigms are challenged. It may help you to know that other icons of the faith have also refuted this notion, most notably John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul.

I know what you are thinking: Perhaps MacArthur and Sproul are wrong. So, let’s see what the Bible has to say about the subject. We will do it quickly, because I am actually trying to get to another matter.

It seems to me that John 14:21 puts the matter quickly to rest.

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

The love of the Father and His Son is conditional to our love for Jesus, which is expressed in our having (to hold fast) and keeping (to attend to carefully) His commandments. Some have tried to reinterpret this by exchanging the two phrases in the first sentence – something like, “he who loves Me will be empowered to keep My commandments”. None of the translations provided by BlueLetterBible.org support this understanding.

Others use John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 to argue God’s unconditional love. After refuting this argument, I will use the same verse to assert something very different and very critical to our relationships with God and the brethren.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

In John 3:16, we see that the love of God expressed in His offer of salvation is reserved for those that believe in Him (a condition). Furthermore, those that believe are the “us” of Romans 5:8. Our belief is another condition of God’s love toward us (along with the loving obedience of John 14:21). As difficult as it may be on our paradigms, we must either accept the conditionality of God’s love or remove these passages from our religious vernacular.

Before moving on, I must strongly encourage you to search out this matter for yourself. You will find that the “unconditional love of God” deception has created more damage than one might imagine. Raising those concerns is not my objective here; I have another matter to share. Read the rest of this entry »

As we have asserted in the past, God is a process-oriented problem solver. Salvation, transformation, sanctification, etc. – all the ways of God are processes, not events. This is a critical paradigm shift for anyone determined to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

In the New Covenant, God has taken responsibility for the lion’s share of these processes.

  • We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).
  • He is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13b).

Our responsibility is to do what we can to participate with Him in the processes. His grace is appropriated by our faith. We must walk in the good works He has prepared for us (not do them, as most translations have it). We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:13a).

Let me stop here and quickly acknowledge that God has grace (i.e., enabling power) for even our part in the processes He has created and prescribed. We are left with little more than choosing Him and His ways. This includes the process of faith.

The Process

Faith is our entry point into every one of God’s processes. The righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:17); and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We do ourselves great harm in thinking that faith is passive and/or simply an event. The Scriptures are clear on this matter: the process of faith consists of three progressive phases.

The hearing of faith: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Genuine followers of Christ have been given ears to hear (Matthew 13:16). It is time we used them (Matthew 11:13). Hearing requires listening; listening takes time and requires attention.

Obedience to the faith: The preposition here is important. Our faith does not produce obedience (of). We must choose to obey the word of God that we are given for faith. We present our body as a living sacrifice and allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2), reckoning the truth of God’s word as true for ourselves – that we are instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:11-14).

The work of faith: The work of faith is an inward (Philippians 2:13) and an outward work (Ephesians 3:20). Faith without work is dead (James 2:14-26). The work of faith associated with the word of God is more than a product of faith; it is the catalyst that brings our faith to life. Read the rest of this entry »

I met a young man the other day who runs a successful executive coaching business. This is not unusual; there are many men and women running successful executive coaching businesses. What intrigues me about this young man is the uniqueness of his approach. He operates fundamentally and foundationally from the exercise of discernment and the application of truth – discerning what is false and apply the truth to close unhealthy gaps.

As best as I can tell, this young man does not dilute, wrap, or compromise his operating model with secular and humanistic schemes. It is the purest kingdom approach to business coaching I have ever encountered. It is inspiring…

And challenging.

God used this young man and our conversation to challenge me on two fronts. First, He reminded me that the fear of conflict is unhealthy, and particularly so when it inhibits our sharing the truth with someone. We are encouraged to commit our way to the LORD, trusting Him to accomplish what He intends (Psalm 37:5). I must stop avoiding conflicts that sharing the truth might create.

I prefer to believe that my resistance in this area comes from genuine concern that I might injure someone with my version and presentation of the truth. This is a poor excuse for conflict avoidance. Am I willing to deprive someone of the truth and its freedom in order to maintain a sense of peace between us? That is not Christian love; it is cowardice.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity, fearfulness, cowardice), but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2Timothy 1:7

I must allow the Holy Spirit to transform me into a surrendered instrument of the Father’s grace – dying to myself for my brother’s sake.

God also used this young man and our conversation to challenge me regarding gaps in my own life – to vigorously seek and destroy the deceptions I have allowed. This conviction contains two applications:

  1. Leaders are responsible to God for helping others discover and overcome the deceptions of their carnal mind. We cannot effectively call or lead someone out of deception when we are willing to accommodate it in our own lives.
  2. Transformation requires the stripping away of our conditional responses to God’s offers of grace.

This second application requires some explanation. One of my heart’s strongest desires is to experience the “greater than life” with others. Jesus promised such a life to all who would believe in Him (John 14:12). The result of that life is the glory of our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16), through the good works we were created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

The “greater than life” is what we were created for!

The Holy Spirit will transform us for this life, through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2, 2Corinthians 3:18), but only as we submit to His work. With God, “conditional submission” is an oxymoron; our conditions clog up the flow of God’s grace.

To be transformed into agents of transformation, we must join the Holy Spirit in searching out our conditional responses to God’s grace, and take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:5). This prayer should help:

Search me, oh God, and know my mind;

Try me and know my self-deceptions;

Expose the wicked thoughts that are hidden in my subconscious;

Lead me to freedom by the truth of your word.

God bless you with grace for the exercise of discernment and the application of truth – for yourself and those in your spheres of influence. Please pray the same for me.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

The activities we engage in are either good or bad; there is no gray area for the followers of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, righteousness is not the polar opposite of unrighteousness (i.e., the most vile of sins); these two conditions are separated by a very thin line – a line which is easily crossed from moment to moment.

While the good and bad of many activities are obvious, most lie somewhere in between the extremes and can only be identified as good or bad based on God’s will and our faith. This leaves room for a lot of interpretation, presumption, and deception. Even the best of persons can fall into the trap of excusing their choices (and our enemies are standing by to help).

To rightly discern the right or wrong of an action, activity, or general direction in life, we are best served by submission to a guide – to walk in the Spirit. Doing so protects us from fulfilling the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). This journey – walking in the Spirit and following Christ – requires an overarching relationship and an undergirding foundation. In between, we walk in the good works of our Father according to His willing and working in us to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

It will help us greatly to recognize each activity – no matter how short-lived or insignificant – as important to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are all collected for judgment; the “whatever” and “all” of “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17)” is not misplaced. Read the rest of this entry »

Archives

My Twitter Feed

Pages

%d bloggers like this: