The Only Love That Can Fully Satisfy

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The Only Love That Can Fully Satisfy

James R. Aist

“Consider how much love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1)

Before I jump into this subject with both feet, it is important to first bring to mind just who this God of the Bible really is. Perhaps you have never really taken to heart just how authoritative, powerful and supreme God is. The God of the Bible is often referred to as “God Most High” or “Most High God” (e.g., Genesis 14:22 and Hebrews 7:1). Psalm 97:9 declares, “For You, O Lord, are Most High above all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.” Thus we derive the Christian doctrine of the “sovereignty” of God, His absolute rule and reign over all of His creation, including the affairs of men. Nothing happens that He did not either do Himself or allow to be done. There is no higher authority than the God of the Bible, He always gets it right the first time, and nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37). His opinions trump the opinions of mere mortal men – and the devil – every time.

That said, when God created Adam and Eve, there was, I believe, a built-in need for this creator-God to approve of them. They were, after all, the only created beings who God made in the image and likeness of Himself (Genesis 1:26). And, because of the infinite greatness of God, their “parent-child” relationship, if you will, was far more highly valued and essential than even the best parent-child relationships we can experience with each other. I reckon that Adam and Eve became accustomed to the unqualified approval that they experienced as God walked with them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). And, ever since they forfeited this intimate and unchanging approval by lusting after the knowledge of good and evil, mankind has longed for God’s approval to be restored. However, our attempts to replace this divine approval by such things as wealth, fame and/or power, or even human relationships, are all in vain, because all of these fall short, leaving us with a built-in, inner longing for the infallible approval that only God can satisfy.

I have learned over the years that a person has to know someone to really love them. A newborn baby can soak up the personal attention of its mother and respond affectionately when its mother fulfills its basic needs for breast milk and a sense of security. But that isn’t really love, but a positive response to having its needs met. The baby knows nothing of the mother’s character and integrity. It doesn’t know what kind of person its mother is. It is not even aware of the degree to which the mother is committed to its well being. So, the mother may assume that the baby loves her with a perfect love, since the baby has no basis for judging her. But, as the baby grows and develops and gets to really know its mother as a person – both the “good” and the “bad” – the capacity for real love develops, and so does the capacity for judgment. When the child has grown enough to love its mother despite her perceived flaws and weaknesses, then real love has made its debut. The love of God toward us is like that. Only God knows us completely; He knows everything about us, good and bad (Psalm 139:14), yet He still loves us. Why is that?

Why does God love us?

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness – Genesis 1:26. God loves us because we are uniquely made in His image and likeness. We may not know for sure just what that “looks like”, but we do know that God does not have that kind of relationship with any other of His created beings, including even the angels!

You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. – Hebrews 2:7. Again, we don’t know for sure in what ways we were created a little lower than the angels, but we do know that we are the pinnacle of His creative juices manifested during the six days of creation (Genesis 2:4-23). And, we know that God must have a very high regard for us in order for Him to crown us with glory and honor and set us over the works of His hands!

We are the only earthly beings created to be able to know God and to glorify Him intentionally (click HERE). This fact makes us unique in our ability to freely love and sincerely glorify God.

We were created to glorify God (click HERE). There is no greater calling than to glorify the God of the Bible!

In short, God created us to be capable of loving Him and worthy of His divine love! Therefore, He loves us.

How great is God’s love for us?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16. Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8. There is no greater love than God’s love for us. God said so, and He proved it!

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19. The love of God for us is so unimaginably massive that it must be experienced to be fully capable of satisfying our hunger for divine approval.

Consider how much love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. – 1 John 3:1. Your biological children are related to you in unique and precious ways, too numerous to quantify and too special to measure. Ponder that for a moment, and then let it sink in that the God who created the Universe has declared us who follow Jesus to be His spiritual children, children of God, no less!

How secure is God’s love for us?

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. – Romans 8:35, 37. Unlike any merely human relationship, our relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ is guaranteed, by God Himself, to never fail, not ever. Now that is absolute, fully trustworthy security!

How authoritative is God’s love for us?

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He spoken, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? – Numbers 23:19. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:9. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31. God, and only God, has the authority and the power to declare those who believe in Jesus to be the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) and, therefore, worthy of His divine and everlasting love!

Whose opinion will you believe?

What, then, is the “take home” message in all of this? Simply put, if you have put your faith and trust in Jesus, then don’t believe the opinion of the devil when you are experiencing doubts about God’s love for you. His love for you is the only love that can fully satisfy. Believe God’s opinion of you, not the opinion of the devil, for “When he lies, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44).

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

The Mechanics of Salvation

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The Mechanics of Salvation

James R. Aist

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44)

I love to hear detailed accounts of how God has saved different folks. The details vary, but there are some aspects that are apparently universal. Of course, God knows exactly how He is going to save every one of His chosen people, and He does whatever He pleases in order to do it. Nevertheless, He has chosen to reveal to us, in His written word, some of the universal aspects concerning how He goes about saving people. This article is intended to provide answers from the word of God to an often-asked question, “How can I be saved?”

Firstly, we must recognize that we are all born into a state of enmity and rebellion toward God (Romans 3:10-12).

Secondly, we should understand that God is in control of whom He will and will not save; salvation belongs to God (Psalm 3:8; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 19:1). In fact, God chose whom He would save before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

Thirdly, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44). No one can believe in Jesus of their own accord, apart from the Father’s influence. And all whom the Father influences in this way will be saved. One universal aspect of the Father’s influence in this regard is that He uses believers to tell unbelievers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14).

Fourthly, a person can think their way toward Jesus under the influence of the Father, but it requires a direct and singular act of grace by the Father to get them all the way to saving faith in Jesus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And, finally, just as we are not in control of our initial salvation experience apart from God’s intervention, so also it is God Himself, not us, Who keeps us saved by His own power (1 Peter 1:4-5) and by the presence (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14) and activity (Philippians 2:13) of His Holy Spirit in us. In fact, the Holy Spirit in us is God’s guarantee that we will spend our eternity with Him in heaven (Ephesians 1:13-15).

Thus, the mechanics of salvation can be summarized in this way: We are all born into a state of enmity and rebellion toward God. God is in control of whom He will and will not save. No one can come to saving faith in Jesus unless the Father draws him. Saving faith in Jesus is a gift from God, not a product of our efforts apart from God’s influence. And, just as it is God who saves us, it is also God who keeps us saved.

So, if you want God to save you and keep you saved, then purpose in your heart to end your rebellion toward Him, confess your sins to the Father, ask Him to give you the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ and commit yourself to put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. God is faithful and just to forgive your sins (cf. 1 John 1:9) and to grant you the gift of saving faith (Romans 10:8-10). Rest assured that He will do it (John 5:24; Romans 10:13), because He chose you for salvation before the foundation of the world!

If you are interested to know how God saved me, then click HERE.

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE.)

The Parable of the Prodigal Sheep

The Parable of the Prodigal Sheep

James R. Aist

Perhaps when you read the title of this article you thought to yourself, “Doesn’t he mean the lost sheep?” After all, that’s the way the later-added, extra-biblical headings refer to this parable. And, in my experience, this parable is commonly used to refer to God pursuing unbelievers until they have been drawn all the way to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, God does exactly that (John 6:44), but is that what this particular parable is really about? Let’s take a closer look, and find out.

Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search for the one which went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine which never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:12-14).

Notice that the scene opens with the man actually owning 100 sheep. If he has them, then he owns them; these sheep belong to this man. Moreover, if this man did not already own these sheep, then none of them could actually go astray, because the man would have no rightful claim to them in the first place. So, right away, we can see that this is a parable about, not a wild sheep belonging to no one, but a prodigal sheep belonging to the man.

Having this perspective, then, let’s proceed to what I believe to be the correct spiritual meaning of this parable: It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones whom the Father has given Me (John 10:29) should perish. Jesus is the man in the parable. Now we can see that the parable of the lost sheep is really about the Father pursuing a backslider that He has already saved until he is brought back into the lifestyle and fellowship of the saints who are following Jesus. And, that is exactly why He will raise all of them up on the Last Day (John 6:39), not just the ones who didn’t backslide!

Now, if you will indulge me for a few moments more, I want to make a point of comparison. If you will take a look at the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-28, you will see that it begins in a fashion similar to the parable of the lost sheep: “A man had two sons.” They were his sons throughout the parable, and when the prodigal son returned to his father, he was reinstated, not adopted, into his father’s household. Although these two parables differ in detail, there are many parallels. Perhaps now you can better understand why I chose to say “prodigal sheep” in the title of this article.

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

On “Assurance”

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On “Assurance”

James R. Aist

“The God who conforms our will to His will in order to save us (John 6:44), is the God who keeps our conformed will conformed to His will in order for us to remain saved (Philippians 2:13).”

The Christian doctrine of “assurance” refers to the absolute certainty that whoever God saves will remain saved and will inherit eternal life. The question then arises, “Upon whom does this absolute certainty depend, the one whom God saved or the God who saved him?” Many Christians believe that, because God never cancels our natural-born, misaligned, will to make choices, a born-again Christian can exercise that same free will to abandon his saving faith, deny Christ and forfeit his inheritance of eternal life with God in heaven. And, they believe that many choose to do just that. Other Christians believe, instead, that the God who saved them is the same God who will keep them saved, while not cancelling their freedom to use their, now realigned, will. And they believe that no one who is truly saved (i.e., born again) will abandon his saving faith, deny Christ and forfeit his inheritance of eternal life with God in heaven. So, which, if either, of these two opposing views is better supported by the biblical witness, and which offers genuine assurance? Following are 21 of the most direct and to-the-point Scriptures that I believe, when taken together and in context, provide an answer to this question, followed by my commentary on each:

Ezekiel 36:26-27 “Also, I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will 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.”

Commentary: God is describing here some of the awesome details of the “born-again” experience that true believers in His promised Messiah (Jesus Christ) will undergo (click HERE for details). Note that God says that He will “cause” them to obey His statutes and that they “will” keep His judgments. In other words, the born-again believer will obey, and continue to obey, God, because God will cause him to do so, not because they will choose, of their own volition, to do so. Surely God’s statutes and judgments include salvation (cf., John 6:39-40); thus, God himself will keep them saved.

John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Commentary: Since Jesus will (not just can or may, but will) raise him up on the last day, he will not, even if he could, abandon his saving faith, deny Christ and forfeit his claim to eternal life with God in heaven.

Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but so much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the One working in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure.”

Commentary: Once you are saved, God himself works inside you to will to remain saved; that would certainly qualify as “His good pleasure”, would it not? Your will remains free to decide, but because your will is now realigned with God’s will, you have only one desirable choice and you’re “good” with that. So, “free will” becomes, in effect, a moot point, because you won’t ever want to abandon your saving faith, deny Christ and forfeit your inheritance of eternal life with God in heaven.

John 6:39-40 “This is the will of the Father who has sent Me, that of all whom He has given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Commentary: The Father’s will is that none (not some or most, but none) will be lost. Jesus will (not just can or may, but will) raise him up on the last day, because he will not abandon his saving faith, deny Christ and forfeit his inheritance of eternal life with God in heaven. Moreover, “everyone” whom God saves will stay saved, every one, and Jesus will raise all of them up on the Last Day…all of them.

John 10:28 “I give them eternal life. They shall never perish, nor shall anyone snatch them from My hand.”

Commentary: Never means never, and nor means nor, period! All who are saved will persevere to the end.

John 17:11b-12a, 20 “Holy Father, through Your name keep those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are one. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. I have kept those whom You have given Me. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word…”

Commentary. Jesus is the one who “kept” the disciples saved while He was still alive in the world; they did not keep themselves saved. Here, Jesus asks the Father to keep them saved after He returns to heaven. So, who keeps us saved? Jesus’ Father, that’s who; we do not keep ourselves saved.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, and He will not permit you to be tempted above what you can endure, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Commentary: God is faithful, and He has promised (elsewhere) to keep you saved. He will do that by limiting the temptations that you may experience and providing a way of escape, if necessary. Thus, God will control the influences that might otherwise convince you to abandon your saving faith, deny Christ and forfeit your inheritance of eternal life with Him in heaven.

1 Corinthians 1:8 “He will strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Commentary: God himself will strengthen you until the day of our Lord (i.e., to the end), so that you will not abandon your saving faith, deny Christ and forfeit your inheritance of eternal life with God in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “May the very God of peace sanctify you completely. And I pray to God that your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it.”

Commentary: Simply put, the same God who saved you is the One who will also preserve (i.e., keep) you until the second coming of Jesus Christ.

John 8:31 “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you remain in My word, then you are truly My disciples.”

Commentary: This verse is often passed over lightly, without really seeing the full implication of it. Jesus is implying that, of those “who believed Him”, those who truly accepted the Gospel are the ones who will remain saved (i.e., “in My word”). In other words, a true disciple will remain a disciple, and those who do not remain in His word are not truly disciples of His, but only appear to be. A parallel point was made more explicitly by John himself in 1 John 2:19, next.

1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us. But they went out, revealing that none of them were of us.”

Commentary: Here, John is speaking of  “antichrists”, those who denied Christ and left the fellowship of true believers. These folks appeared to be true believers, but they showed that they were not by denying Christ and walking away. True believers, on the other hand, will not deny Christ and walk away.

Romans 11:29 “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.”

Commentary: This is a general truth, and Paul is applying it here to make the point that the Jews will, someday, also put their faith in the Messiah (Jesus) and be saved. Since this is a general truth, it also applies to the calling of all people to God and the gifts (i.e., grace, saving faith and salvation) given to them when they are converted; thus, salvation is not revocable, but permanent.

Philippians 1:4-6 “In every prayer of mine for you all, I have always made requests with joy, due to your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Commentary: The God who saved you is the One who will keep you saved until the day of Jesus Christ (i.e., the end). God will finish what He started!

Romans 8:34-39 “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes, who is risen, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Commentary: Paul says that there is no outside influence whatsoever that can take our salvation from us (separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord). But what about our misaligned will; can’t we use that to separate us? Paul said “No”, when he included “any other created thing” in the list, because we are created things! So, nothing and no one – not even we, ourselves – can cause ourselves to revoke our salvation. Besides, the will of the saved has been realigned to agree with the will of God, and there will no longer be any incentive to disobey God.

Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him you also, after hearing the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and after believing in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory”, with…

Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you are sealed for the day of redemption” with…

1 Corinthians 1:21-22 “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and established the guarantee with the Spirit in our hearts.”

Commentary: Taken together, these previous three passages say that the Holy Spirit, dwelling in every true believer, seals our salvation and guarantees that we will not lose it, ever, and certainly not by an act of our realigned will.

1 Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that does not fade away, kept in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Commentary: The power of God protects us, through faith, from denying Christ and losing our eternal inheritance. The God who saved us is the One who will keep us, by His power.

Hebrews 10:38-39 “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the saving of the soul.”

Commentary: Here, the writer is making it clear that those who shrink back do not have saving faith, whereas, those who do not shrink back have saving faith. He is not saying that true believers can or will shrink back or fall away. (Compare this to 1 John 2:19, above.)

Jude 24 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with rejoicing…”

Commentary: God is able to keep you from “falling” (i.e., denying Jesus and revoking your salvation). So, if God is able to keep you saved, then would He not, in fact, do it? After all, it is His will that you remain saved (John 6:39-40). God both saves you and keeps you saved.

My Conclusions: In view of the considerable, clear and direct biblical evidence presented above, I conclude that it is, ultimately, God who keeps us saved, and that it is not primarily by the power of our own efforts that we will endure to the end, but by the power and the will of God working in us and for us. In other words, once God has saved us, He so re-enforces our will to remain saved that we will, in fact, remain saved. The God who conforms our will to His will in order to save us, is the God who keeps our conformed will conformed to His will in order for us to remain saved. He does this through various means, including the work and witness of the Holy Spirit in us, the continued preaching of His word to us, the witness of other believers to us and continued warnings to us to not “fall away.”

Genuine Assurance: So, which version of assurance offers absolute certainty for the true believer? If the saved person is able to renounce his faith in the divinity of Jesus and lose his salvation, then his is only a hope of assurance, a hope that is contingent upon his own power and strength to retain his saving faith. His eternal security is only as secure as his faith is. I liken this, somewhat, to a letter in the mail that says on the outside of the envelope, “Congratulations, you are the winner of $5,000 a week for life!” But, when you read the letter inside, it says “…if yours is the lucky number to be drawn soon.” You have to wait until the drawing to find out whether or not you have won, and you cannot guarantee that you will win anything! What kind of a God would go to such lengths and pay such a price to draw us and save us, only to leave it entirely up to us to keep ourselves saved? On the other hand, if, as the Bible says, the saved person is protected by the power of God and given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that he will never renounce his faith in the divinity of Jesus and lose his salvation, then his is an absolute certainty – that is to say, real assurance – from the day of his salvation right on into eternity. His eternal security is as secure as God is faithful. Put another way, “Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.” (J.I Packer in “Knowing God”). Now, I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have God in charge of my assurance than me; He is far more trustworthy, faithful and able to keep me saved than I am!

Benefits and Potential Pitfalls: I have found that a right understanding and acceptance of this doctrine of assurance confers true peace with God and guaranteed security in my right standing with Him from the moment God saves me right into eternity. Such peace and security are true blessings of immense value to the born again believer. But, this same doctrine can easily be misconstrued to, seemingly, give us license to sin all the more, because of God’s abounding grace (Romans 5:20). To this erroneous manner of (wrong) thinking the Apostle Paul declares emphatically, “God forbid!” (Romans 6:2, 15). How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? And in Galatians 6:7-8, he issues this warning, “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” The fact that this doctrine can be misunderstood and abused does not diminish, in any way, either its validity or its blessings to the one who understands and practices it rightly.

Who Gets the Glory?

Let’s now compare the doctrines of “sovereign assurance” and of “free will assurance” with respect to who gets the glory (i.e., the credit) for our persevering to the end (Matthew 24:13). If God’s assurance is sovereign, then God gets all of the glory, and we get none of it. But, if our free will is sovereign, then we can claim some of the glory, because it was, after all, our free-will decisions to continue to believe in Jesus that determined our eternal destiny. To my way of thinking, the latter is just another way of saying that we persevere to the end by works (i.e., our choosing to persevere). And, herein lies the primary reason that it matters what you believe in this regard: If you believe that you persevere because you continue to make the right decisions, are you really giving God all the glory that belongs to Him, or are you, in reality, claiming some of that glory for yourself? God has said “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8).

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE.)