Salvation: Who Is Inviting Whom?

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Salvation: Who Is Inviting Whom?

James R. Aist

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37)

Different Christian “traditions” have developed their own “catch phrases” to represent biblical truths with simplicity, and, as such, they can be useful tools of communication in the Christian “world.” But some catch phrases do not accurately convey sound doctrine or theology, however well-intended. This article addresses an important example of a popular, yet misleading, catch phrase.

The catch phrase I have in mind occurs at the end of a “salvation message”, when the evangelist encourages the congregation to “ask Jesus into your life”, or something equivalent in different words.  As I was meditating briefly on this particular invitation – which I have heard on several occasions – a red flag went up. So, I paused to meditate further to try and identify the reason for the red flag.

Then it dawned on me: Do we really want to ask Jesus to join us in our sinful, worldly lives? Is that what it means to be born again? Of course not! When salvation comes, it is not us inviting Jesus to join our lives; rather, it is Jesus who is inviting us to join Him in His life, that is, eternal life.

And, these two kinds of life are of a fundamentally different nature. The life we are born into is a temporary, physical, biological life in which we are separated from God. The life that Jesus invites us to enter into is a spiritual life in which we are connected to God forever, just as He originally intended when He created mankind. Being “born again” produces a truly “new life” in our experience, and it can be ours only when we stop resisting God and let Him save us.

That said, there are surely very important ways in which Jesus does want to bless and change us during the remainder of our biological life. For example, He insists that we let Him become our Lord by being obedient to His teachings and to all of the other moral laws contained in the written word of God, the Bible. This means that the true born-again experience will result in a life that is characterized by the forsaking of evil works and the practice of good works. If these signs of a true believer are absent, then we have not yet received the gift of “saving faith”, but instead, we have received “dead faith” (James 2:14-17). Such faith is worse than worthless, because it leaves us believing that our sin problem has been taken care of, when it has not!

Revelation 22:7 says, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let him who hears say, “Come.” Let him who is thirsty come. Let him who desires take the water of life freely.” This is an invitation from God for you to become connected to Him, sharing His life forever. The “Spirit” is God’s Holy Spirit, the “bride” and “him who hears” is the company of born-again, true believers in Jesus Christ. All of these are inviting you to enter into God’s eternal life. Those who desire to accept this invitation may take the water of life freely. So, if this is you, I strongly urge you to say “yes” to this invitation now, because everlasting life with God in heaven depends on it! There is no other way (John 14:6).

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

Jesus Is My Co-pilot…Or Is He?

Jesus Is My Co-pilot…Or Is He?

James R. Aist

Its not as common as it used to be, but do you remember when lots of Christians proudly displayed this message on the rear bumper of their car: “Jesus Is My Co-pilot”? That’s a catchy phrase alright, but is it good theology? Let’s look more closely and find out.

One need not think very deeply to realize the theological implications of this bumper sticker. If Jesus is my co-pilot, then who is my pilot? That would be me, of course. In this scenario, I would be in charge of my life, and Jesus would, in effect, function as my assistant. I would want Him right there by my side to steer my life away from trouble and into prosperity. But, heaven forbid that He would ever even think that He’s in charge! After all, its my life, isn’t it?

Or, is it? The Bible says that our life is not our own now, because we have been redeemed; that is, we have been bought by a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). It goes on to say that, as Christians, it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Before God saved us, we were living as “pilots of our own planes.” God did not even appear in the equation of our lives at that time. We were without God and without hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12). But God the Father drew us all the way to Jesus (John 6:44) and gave us the gift of saving faith so that, from that moment on, God had a rightful claim on our lives, to the point that He has a right to do anything with our lives that He wants to; we now belong to Him (Mark 9:41), not ourselves.

It can be a long, hard struggle for us to get to the point in our Christian walk that we are really and unequivocally surrendered to God’s will for our lives, no matter what that may look like. But when we get there, it will begin to show. Our friends and family will begin to see outward signs that we are no longer living for ourselves, but for Christ. At that point, we will be fulfilling the chief end of man, the main reason that God created us in the first place; that is, to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

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

 

The Parable Of The Sower…Revisited

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The Parable Of The Sower…Revisited

James R. Aist

“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.” – Jesus (John 6:44)

There’s an interesting and important aspect to the Parable of the Sower that is usually overlooked; namely, how did the “good ground” become good ground, whereas the other three “grounds” did not? To examine this question effectively and accurately, let’s reproduce it and its explanation here, and then unpack it, so to speak: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on a rock. And as soon as it sprang up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. Yet some fell among thorns. And the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. And other seed fell on good ground and sprang up and yielded a hundred times the amount sown. When He had said these things, He cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”(Luke 8:4-8); “Now the parable means this: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are those who hear. Then comes the devil, who takes away the word from their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root, for they believe for a while, then in the time of temptation fall away. That which fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed on the good ground are those who, having heard the word, keep it in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8: 11-15).

Here are some key passages from these verses that I want us to focus on for a moment. First, the seed represents the word of God. Second, the different kinds of ground represent different kinds of people who hear the word of God. Third, the seed on the good ground are those who, having heard the word, keep it in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience.  And fourth, at the end of the parable, Jesus cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (vs. 8). What in the world is that about? Why would Jesus punctuate this parable with such a seemingly peculiar command? Well, I believe that the key to understanding how the “good ground” became good ground is embedded in this outcry. Let me explain.

In an earlier article (click HERE), I pointed out that Jesus knew that, in any given audience, there would be some to whom God had not given “ears to hear” and that they would not be able to accept (receive) His teaching. One of the best examples of this is found in John 6:51-66, where many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him, because of His teaching on the requirement of His followers to eat His flesh and drink His blood. And in Mark 8:17-18, Jesus seemed surprised, because it appeared that God may not have given His very disciples “ears to hear” the meaning of this parable. So, despite knowing that some in His audiences had not been given “ears to hear”, Jesus proclaimed His teaching anyway, for the sake of those to whom the Father had given ears to hear. And that’s why He said, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear”: His target audience was specifically those to whom the Father had given “ears to hear.” In modern parlance, we might refer to them as having been given a “teachable spirit.” Now, Jesus also said that “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). So, let’s pull this all together and see if it tells us how the “good ground” became good ground.

All of those whom God will save are drawn, somehow, to Jesus by the Father. And, Jesus will raise all of them up on the last day. Only those to whom God has given “ears to hear” will, having heard the word, keep it in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience. That is what sets the good ground apart from the other three grounds: God has given them “ears to hear” the good news in an effectual manner. That’s why Jesus cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” at the end of this parable (vs. 8)! Their positive response to the good news is the final step in the process of the Father drawing them to Jesus. And what is the end result of this process? More born-again Christians, that’s what. And this is all to the glory of God the Father, who drew them all to Jesus!

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

A Life of Obedience, Not Compromise!

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A Life of Obedience, Not Compromise!

James R. Aist

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9). In this regard, I must confess that I am “a work in progress.” And I would venture to guess that the same is true of most modern Christians. But, heaven forbid that we should ever regard this condition as acceptable! In this article, I intend to step on a few toes (some of which are connected to my own feet!) in hopes that we all will begin to more fully live like believers. My focus will be on what we are feeding our born-again spirits through the various media (TV, radio, movies, books, magazines, internet, etc.) . So, please take a deep breath with me and allow the word of God to minister to your conscience.

The central message I am sharing here is that God has not called us to a life of compromise, but of obedience. A Christian acquaintance of mine once declared, “Its OK for me to watch anything I want to, so long as it doesn’t cause me to lose my faith in Christ.” That’s exactly the kind of attitude I’m calling out here. In this present world, we are bombarded daily with opportunities (i.e., temptations) to fill our minds – and thus, to feed our born-again spirits – with thoughts, images and behaviors that are not good and acceptable and perfect according to the will of the God we claim to serve. Every time we yield to these temptations, we are behaving as hypocrites, not faithful followers of Jesus, who gave His life as a sufficient sacrifice for our sins! We do not always consider our sins to be as serious as God does, but we should.

So, what, exactly, are these worldly “entertainments”, or subject matters, that we should not be entertaining ourselves with? Here is a short list, for our consideration: pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, gender bending, cursing, profanity, lawlessness and mocking God. Regardless of how these themes and messages get into our minds – through our eyes or our ears or both – to the extent that we allow these things to enter under the guise of innocent entertainment, we are being conformed to the world, rather than being in the world but not of it. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, the world therefore hates you. (John 15:19).” God chose us out of the world, and He expects us to stay out of the world, even if the world hates us for it!

Now, I am fully aware that there are a number of fellow Christians who insist that it is acceptable practice to use movies with immoral themes or messages as teaching tools to present the Gospel as a better way to live and prioritize one’s life. While its not my place to condemn anyone for using this approach, I do, nonetheless, have some questions to pose in this context: Is the Word of God no longer “…alive, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12); and is the Gospel of Jesus Christ no longer “…the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek? (Romans 1:16)? And, if God is going to save someone, does He really need us to resort to the use of immoral media entertainment to get their attention?

Finally, to more fully present, for our consideration, what the Bible has to say concerning these matters, I have assembled several additional and pertinent scripture passages for us to ponder, knowing full well that if one will not listen and learn from the Word of God, then one will surely not listen to me:

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11);

If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Psalm 66:18);

I will set no wicked thing before my eyes. (Psalm 101:3);

Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8);

But I say to you that for every idle word that men speak, they will give an account on the Day of Judgment. (Matthew 12:36);

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. (Philippians 4:8);

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5);

What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19);

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30);

Beware lest anyone captivate you through philosophy and vain deceit, in the tradition of men and the elementary principles of the world, and not after Christ. (Colossians 2:8);

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15); and,

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (Romans 6:12);

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

Challenges

Our goal for this area of our lives should be obedience, not compromise. We must not put a question mark where God puts a period! So, if you will, pray this prayer with me, and let’s mean it together: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my concerns, and see if there is any rebellious way in me, and lead me in the ancient way.” (Psalm 139:23-24). And if you need it, then use 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Remember, there is no sin too great or too longstanding for God to rid you of it. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37).

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