Are Your Children Saved?

saved

One of the great tragedies of religion is the failure to identify and deal with the truth of biblical conversion. As I think back to my life before salvation and the different churches I had attended I was never once asked when and how I was saved. I guess it was assumed that being in a church meant I was saved.

Why would this presupposition be any different with children today?

I believe there is major deception among Bible believing churches and church attendees that don’t know how to deal with this subject. I can tell you that I didn’t know how to deal with it.

First of all, I didn’t even know that I wasn’t saved, until my salvation was challenged.   If you’ve ever asked someone about their salvation and they become offended I’d really wonder why? Isn’t this a legitimate question for Believers to ask of one another? Isn’t God brought the glory He deserves when we discuss how He saved someone?

Salvation is a super-natural work of God where He takes a dead, God-hating soul and regenerates that heart into a heart that has all new desires. It’s really here that this topic begins. We must first understand it’s a work of God. In order to be saved we must recognize we need saving.   We were, or still are, spiritually dead.

Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…

If we don’t understand the significance of this verse, there is no understanding of the doctrine of salvation. Paul is writing to the saints (those set apart for service and worship of God) and he is telling them Christ made them alive. Why? Because they were DEAD!

Secondly, we must understand that God does it.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote about this super-natural work and we can see the purpose and reason behind salvation. Do we benefit from salvation? Most certainly, but is it primarily for our benefit, absolutely not.

Ezekiel 36:22-23   “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but my My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the LORD God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.

This is God exalting, pride crushing, man debasing theology at its finest. “IF” you are saved, if your children are saved, it’s by the grace of God to bring Him glory. If you think that your salvation is about you then you need to read this again and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.

It’s important to quickly note that Israel is not the nation state of Israel. Israel is Believers; God’s chosen people, not just Israelites, although some are included in this group. See Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-13, 1 Kings 19:10-18.

Ezekiel 36:24-25 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

Do you recognize your filthiness and your idols? When I think about mine before salvation and what God rescued me from, I’m overcome by the work that God has done in my life. Do you ever look back and think, “that was me, but for the grace of God?” When you go into a large public gathering do you look around and see the idols and the filthiness? Do you ever wonder who will be saved? Does it break your heart for the lost?

Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Did you have anything to do with your salvation? Did you lead your children in a prayer or manipulate them into asking Jesus into their hearts? This verse could not be any clearer. Jesus affirmed this in John 3 when He challenged Nicodemus with his salvation.

Ezekiel 36:31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loath yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations.

Jesus said it this way “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

If you have no recognition of your past, and your offenses against God, if you think that your children are relatively decent or well behaved children, you don’t understand the holiness of God. Without this recognition there is no chance for them to be saved.

God saves those of a humble and broken spirit (Psalm 51, Matthew 5:4, James 4:9). Broken and humbled over their sin and their offenses against a holy God; recognizing their filthiness. This applies to you, it applies to me, and it certainly applies to our children. Jesus told us the path that leads to life is narrow. Salvation is not decisional, it’s recognition of your sin, repenting and living in a manner completely different to which you were.

If we, as parents, can understand the gravity of salvation there is a much better chance for our children to be saved as we accurately present the gospel. In the end there is nothing more important.

Kevin

Lust of the flesh

rocks and waterWhat does it mean when the Bible talks about the lust of the flesh?  This seems pretty obvious to most Believers but I wonder just how seriously we take this in our everyday lives.

Galatians 5:16-18 I say then:  Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The word “walk” in Greek is peripateō – From G4012 and G3961; to tread all around, that is, walk at large (especially as proof of ability); figuratively to live, deport oneself, follow (as a companion or votary): – go, be occupied with, walk (about).

Our desire to “walk” in the Spirit is what a Believer should be occupied with, what are the affections of your heart and mind, do you desire the Spirit or your flesh?  When those moments of temptation creep in, how do you handle them?

Today I’m going to introduce a dear brother and friend to this blog.  I’ve wanted to post some of his writing for some time now.  He is an extraordinary thinker.

So welcome Tyler Bolkema to Uncommon Faith.  Recently Tyler wrote an email to some of the brothers in our assembly that have been struggling with the sin of idolatry in tobacco use.  I’m hopeful this will stir in each reader to look at sins they tolerate, we all have them don’t we, what’s yours?

Don’t you know that Christ lives in you?  How can you possibly walk according to the flesh if you are in the Spirit?

Only two options exist.  You are in rebellion, or you are NOT saved.  I trust you won’t fail the test.

Kevin

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God has put each of you on my heart these past few hours. I know each of you have struggled and our somewhat currently struggling with chewing tobacco/nicotine craving. As I have briefly discussed this with each of you and listened to you talk about it, I see how hard it is for you to completely put this out of your life because you so easily want to justify and rationalize this in your life. As I read God’s word, this became clearer to me and I hope that His word will deepen your repentance in this area and grant you a non-swaying opinion of this in your lives. 

Romans 13:11-14 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” 

Verse 14 really stuck out in my mind, that we would make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. I thought the Wuest translation was also quite telling: “But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and stop making provision for the sinful nature with a view to a passionate craving.”

As you think about your chewing tobacco ask yourself one thing, “Is this a desire from God that He has given me to grow in my faith in holiness?” If yes, then I would expect each of you to put a big dip in next time you sit down on the Lord’s Day to prepare to worship God. I think you all see ridiculousness of that. If no, then ask yourself this question, “Is this a passionate craving of my flesh that I continue to want to make provision for?”

If your flesh still desires to make provision for this in your life and still tell yourself that this is not sin, then read further down in Romans.

Romans 14:23 “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”

You would all attest that your chewing is not a result of your faith in Jesus Christ, but a habit of your old fleshly man. Again if your flesh desires to disagree here, then you ought to be able to bring this into the church of God and worship Him with it.

Paul is very clear, in this context he is talking about food and those things that are sacrificed to idols. I do not think that the food Paul discusses here is a parallel with your chewing, it is the last sentence that I desire you to meditate on – For whatever is not from faith is sin.

John Calvin explains this passage well,  “The reason for this condemnation is, that every work, however splendid and excellent in appearance, is counted as sin, except it be founded on a right conscience; for God regards not the outward display, but the inward obedience of the heart, by this alone is an estimate made of our works. Besides, how can that be obedience, when any one undertakes what he is not persuaded by is approved by God? Where then such a doubt exists, the individual is justly charged with prevarication; for he proceeds in opposition to the testimony of his, own conscience.”

Brothers, you gave testimony from your own conscience that you ought stop chewing in obedience to Christ, but then the more you continued to rationalize, justify, and make provision for the flesh you allowed your conscience to be seared. You have not cut this craving off as the craving for the immoral woman, but in your mind you continue to “walk by her house”, as Proverbs 6:5-8 warns, on this fleshly craving of yours. 

One of your consciences was so convicted that He had to hide this habit from those closest around Him in order to hang onto it.

I praise God that he is working brokenness over this in some of you, and yet as I talk with each of you, I see your flesh still want to justify, rationalize, and make provision for your fleshly desire. Brothers, let it not be so. Make no provision for your flesh and its lusts, but let us press on in fellowship with one another for the furtherance of the Gospel, that you would lay this off and put it away from you. That you would cut off that old man and live in the light of Christ at all times throughout each day. Please see how this affects your testimony, your wives, your children, and your church body. For the sake of them, cut off the old fleshly man, so the power of Christ might shine in your life.

Each morning I wake up and fight to get on my knees to put to death the Tyler that desires sexual immorality, laziness, and pride. And each morning I war against the desires of my flesh to put them to death. I do not do this perfectly, but by the grace of God I do not justify these things when they manifest in my life.

Use the tools God has given us to deny ourselves and our flesh. Fast until God has dealt true brokenness and repentance in this area of life, seek the Lord in prayer until He has changed your mind, preach the word to your wicked heart that so easily deceives you, and come humbly into the fellowship of God’s people to share and receive God’s grace in your life.

I love you each dearly, please turn from making provision for this fleshly craving and let us go forward together in ministering to the saints. And as you see my flesh rear up and make provision for it, may you help me put it to death with the same warlike attitude that we have done away with the other sin in our lives.

Love you all, 

Tyler

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Home ownership & the mortification of sin

draftywindowb&w

What an odd title to a blog post right?  I’ve been struggling this week on a topic to write about so I went outside for a few minutes to take a look at a drafty window we have on the northwest corner of our house.  I thought I might cover it with a piece of plastic to cut down on the air flow, and as I was contemplating this, I asked God for wisdom in declaring His truth.

This has been an odd week for me, usually I get up pretty early on Monday morning, head to Starbucks, read my Bible, and then write my article.  The article is sent to my Pastor so he can ensure I’ve not made any huge theological blunders.  I take seriously the charge to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 3:15) and that I’ll be held accountable for what is being taught (James 3:1).  Then I’ll sit on it for most of Monday, review on Tuesday and make any refinements and then post it Tuesday sometime.

This week I caught a bad cold and I couldn’t drag myself out of bed Monday so I kept procrastinating and then again Tuesday…  So now here I am Tuesday evening and finally sitting down to write and I can’t think of a thing to say.  For those of you that know me I’m sure you’re wondering how that happened.

I’ve been a homeowner for approximately 22 years; well actually I’ve been buying a house from the bank for 22 years, but that’s a whole other article, and the thought occurred to me that there is a lot of maintenance to being a homeowner.  Down through the years, we’ve replaced the roof, the hot water heater, had our basement flooded a few times, it’s a never ending job to keep things up.

As I gave up on my window project as quickly as I thought about it I realized how similar it is to what Scripture calls me to mortify my flesh, not to entertain sin in my life in anyway.  It’s a never ending process.  It’s like watching a gerbil on a treadmill; we run and run but seemingly never get anywhere.  However, as with home maintenance and mortification of sin we must see some obvious signs of accomplishment or we must really examine our claim to Christianity.

Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

If you gaze back on your Christian life do you see obvious signs of “accomplishment”?  I use this word accomplishment lightly because it’s God that works in us and the progress is not our own yet we must fully participate in the process.  Have you gained ground on your sin or do you continue to struggle with the same old stuff.

If my house is crumbling around me it would appear I’ve not been very diligent in keeping up with my investment.  So clearly we can see the parallel can’t we?  If I was to ask you how is your relationship with Christ I’d be every bit as interested in how is your relationship to your sin?  Are you closer to it or further from it?  Do you see your sin in a different light than what you once saw it?

Jesus Christ was the greatest preacher the world has ever known and one thing that made Him so good, beside the fact He is God, was His use of common everyday things in life that illustrated deep theological issues.  He called these parables and in my “parable” I hope you’ll consider today if you are working at killing the desires of your flesh, i.e. keeping up the maintenance, or are those nagging sin issues still dragging you down.

Without the grace of God there is no peace and when sin stands between you and God there is no grace. 

So today let’s put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh.  Whatever sin issues you are currently dealing with you need to repent of that sin and then put it off completely.  If you are a Believer you are entitled to enter the throne room and set it at the foot of the One that freely gives to those who humble themselves, but you must not count that grace as a common thing (Hebrews 10:26).

If you are a Believer that sin was nailed to the cross of Christ.  So why would you continue in it?  Let’s really think about that today.

Kevin

Also wanted to announce our new radio show “Ask a Pastor”

A New Baby…

Anna & Lydia

How should the Church interact in the lives of Believers in this modern day and age?  Most of my church experience up until four years ago was going to a place listening to a sermon and then going home.  When we became “really involved” we participated in a small group or would go to a more intensive Wednesday meeting designed to dig deeper into the Bible.  I remember the attendance being very anemic.  Seems most people had better things to do.

We knew people by name and enjoyed small talk with them while at church, but rarely did we really get involved in their lives or them in ours and since it was a larger congregation if you felt like coming and going without really knowing anyone that was pretty easy to do.

Acts 2:44-47 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

This is very strange sounding to modern day evangelical ears I would guess.  Most people just are not going to embrace this kind of involvement with others in their churches.  Most people don’t know them well enough to be involved.  We are autonomous beings desiring what we think is best.

Today I want to encourage the body of Christ with my testimony of the birth of our fourth child.  This past Friday Anna Joy was brought into the world and what a joyous and wonderful experience it was.  Thursday evening Jen and I had gathered with our church family for a webinar on home education and that night went to bed with much anticipation.

Friday was the due date and Jen typically goes right on time, or just a day or two over, so we expected it to happen soon.  When I become conscious of Jen being up and down a lot in the night I thought, I’ll bet this is it.

I got out of bed about 2:00 am and asked Jen how it was going?  She said “I think this is it”.  She had a good contraction before she went to bed and at 1:50 am experienced the first one that really confirmed labor had begun.  We embraced one another and prayed that the Lord would be glorified in this process, that Jen would have strength and endurance and seek Him for His grace in her time of need.  He poured out His mercy abundantly upon Jen that morning and she labored and gave birth in a beautifully calm and assuring fashion.  We are so grateful for all He is when we need Him most.

I guess it must have been a little before 3 am that I placed our first phone call to Andrea.  Andrea is a woman from our church that we had asked to assist in the birth process.  She has been a tremendous blessing in Jen’s life, as a Titus 2 woman, that has taught and counseled Jen for many years now and we were so honored Andrea accepted the invitation to be a part of this experience.

It seemed like Andrea arrived at the house 10 minutes later, although I know she lives at least 15 minutes away.

Next I called Dr. Wells and placed her on alert that we would be having a baby today.

My third call was to Greta, and she answered the call after about four rings.  Greta is a mother of four and an expert in the natural birthing process.  Greta and her husband Brad have been a tremendous blessing to our family and having her experience was invaluable.  She has a great calming influence and when she arrived it greatly assured Jen that everything was going to be alright.  Immediately Greta found a good position for Jen to have her hard contractions.

Our third support person, Brenda was providentially prevented from us being able to get a hold of for reasons only God knows, but God provided everything we needed.  Brenda was incredibly important when Lydia was born and continues to be a great resource in our lives.

Around 4:00 am Greta began seeing the transition into the final stages of labor and said it’s time for us to go to the hospital.  I called Dr. Wells and let her know we were heading to the hospital and by the time we arrived Dr. Wells was waiting.  From this point it was a very short and fast labor and at 5:01 am Anna arrived into the world, she weighed in at 9.03 lbs.

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

As much as Believers need to be about the work of ministry of reconciliation and preaching the gospel to the lost, they must also be about ministering to the saints.  This is pretty uncommon today and I’m thankful that we are part of a body of Believers that gathers frequently and share in the simplicity of life, gathering from house to house, and breaking bread together often.  We enjoy doing life together.

The next couple weeks we will also experience the love of Christ as we are assisted in evening meals.  Saturday evening I received a call from our Pastor and he said we’d love to bring pizza and ice cream over if you are up for it.  We had a wonderful time of conversation and reflecting on the miracle of a new life.  When Lydia was born, we had many meals dropped off, but the last couple evenings we’ve had the families join us and that has been even a bigger blessing as we are able to share and spend time with them just as Acts 2:44-47 describes.

I think many miss the purpose of the church and too often get caught up in ministry to unbelievers.  I don’t want to be misunderstood, because the gospel must be preached, but the saints should be the primary recipient of God’s grace through His church.

I’m so thankful for God’s provision of the church and how Christ is the head and we are to serve Him by serving others.  What joy we feel when we serve the One that taught us how to serve.

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Kevin

…Pants on fire

exaggeration

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Would anyone agree that telling lies is a good thing?  Nobody wants to be called a “liar”.  Those are fighting words for most people.  I would assert even atheists think telling the truth, for the most part, is a good thing.  Although why they think this I don’t know because without God’s command there is no basis for truth telling.

God’s Word tells us repeatedly to tell the truth, and in fact it’s such a serious matter that it’s one of the seven things that are an abomination to God.

Proverbs 6:16-17 These six thing the LORD hates, yes seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue…

Ephesians 4:29-31 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth… Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

Paul tells us that it is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10).  There is no doubt God hates lying.

Does anyone disagree?

I’m here to tell you today that we need to reform in this area of truth telling.  I know most of you are probably thinking, “I don’t lie”, at least not on purpose.  I think there is a very insidious way in which Satan deceives us into lying and allows us to wrap ourselves in our own righteous.  It’s called exaggeration.  It’s a subtle but evil form of speaking to your neighbor.

Here’s an example from my own life.

I return from a hard week of work and say, “Oh I’m so tired I put in 40 hours of work in 3 days”.  In reality I did work hard and I am tired but the exaggeration comes in the form of the “stretch” of how many hours I actually worked.  I might have been awake and actually doing something for 40 hours over the course of those 3 days but I wasn’t working the entire time.

In the business I work we get up early.  I may actually have worked 38 hours but there is always the pull to exaggerate, even slightly, to the amount of time or the amount of effort that was exerted.

Why?

I want to seriously ask myself this question, why would I do that?  If I’m telling someone about my long work days do they really care whether it was 40 hours or 38 hours; of course not, but in my mind that sounds more dramatic.  I have the tendency to think of myself a higher opinion.  “Boy I really did something this weekend!”  “Aren’t I special?”

I’m a legend in my own mind…

Don’t we all do this?  Tell the truth…  You know you do this and so do I.

I have a good friend that is an extraordinarily hard working guy.  I don’t distrust him when it comes to his work ethic or his ability to tell me the truth.  Yet he’s an exaggerator.  He has some liberty with the amount of emails sent in a day or the time he arises each morning and goes to bed each night to accomplish his tasks.  Again, I don’t distrust his work ethic but why the embellishment?

I know he’s busy, I know he works hard.  But did he really send out 100 emails today or was it more like 60?  I’m easily impressed so whether it was 40, 60 or 800 in a day I’m going to think he’s pretty special at his job.  He has my respect without the exaggeration.

God thought this was important enough to include this in the top 10 of Christianity (Exodus 20:1-17).  This word “false” holds a very deep meaning.

sheh’-ker

From H8266; an untruth; by implication a sham (often adverbially): – without a cause, deceit (-ful), false (-hood, -ly), feignedly, liar, + lie, lying, vain (thing), wrongfully.

Notice how it says adverbially.  I really like this because it shows us how we use “verbal exclamations” to spin our lies in the form of exaggerations and all along it’s meant to deceive.  And then it goes on to tell us “without a cause”, there’s no reason for it.  Please let that sink in for a moment.  You have no reason to stretch that truth.  It does not profit you.  Ultimately it harms your credibility.

This article is meant to reform the minds and hearts of Bible believing Christians.  I don’t expect it will have any effect on the unregenerate but if God wills it might show someone their sin.  If you are a chronic liar you need to repent and turn from this abominable sin.  If you are just an exaggerator you need to repent and turn from this abominable sin.

Although I’d like to develop some other thoughts, that might have to be another day, but some common expressions Believers should not utilize are verbal exclamations such “I swear to God” or “I swear”, see Matthew 5:33-36.  You should never have to “convince” someone you are a truth teller.

We should also eliminate words like “honestly”, or “to be honest with you”…  This would indicate at other times you are dishonest.  As we begin to consider the meaning of our words and how important the words we use, we can become better communicators and better ambassadors for Christ.

Ephesians 4:14-15 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head Christ…

This is the ultimate goal, to no longer be children, we need to put aside the elementary principles of Christianity and “grow up”; for the glory of the One that deserves obedience and truth telling.

Kevin