That They May Have “Life”

See the source image

That They May Have “Life”

James R. Aist

“The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

In John 10:10, Jesus was speaking to Jews in Jerusalem who were taking Him to task for healing people. I used to wonder why Jesus would say to people who were obviously living, breathing beings, that He came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. Don’t they already have life? Jesus seemed to be saying that He came to give them something that they already have. It just didn’t make sense to me.

But, I discovered recently the solution to this seeming contradiction. It all has to do with the translation from the original Greek to the English language. In the New Testament, there are mainly two Greek words having different meanings that are both translated “life” in the English versions. Sometimes “life” refers to our biological life (“psuche” or “biotikos” in the Greek) here on earth; at other times, it refers to the new or “eternal” life (“zoe” in the Greek) in Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus was referring to the latter kind of life, “eternal life”, not our present, biological life. To help you more fully appreciate the significance of this distinction, here are some pertinent verses from the Apostle John, beginning with John’s definition of “eternal life”: “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent (John 17:3); “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11); and “In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind (John 1:4). In all three verses, the Greek word translated “life” is “zoe.” So, now we can see that everyone has “psuche”, or biological life, but only those who believe in the One who was sent by the Father (John 5:24 and 38; John 6:29 and 40) have “zoe”, or eternal life. This is the life to which the angel was referring when he commanded Paul to “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).

So, now the question becomes, “In what way did Jesus come that they may have eternal life more abundantly?” I believe that it is in actually knowing Jesus Christ, the long awaited Jewish Messiah, and in knowing that they now possess the “eternal life” that He won for them on the cross. Moreover, this life with God in Christ (eternal life realized) will be far more glorious than the eternal life they may have imagined before Christ appeared. The Apostle Paul described it this way, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”(Corinthians 2:9; see also Isaiah 64:4). That, my friends, is indeed, “life more abundantly”, and it will be yours if you put your faith and trust in Jesus!

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

The Reverse of the Curse

See the source image

The Reverse of the Curse

James R. Aist

God has been impressing on me lately the incredible magnitutide of what He has already done to bridge the spiritual gap between Himself and mankind that began when Adam chose to obey Satan instead of God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). God’s response to that “original sin” was three-fold: 1) He pronounced curses on Adam, Eve, Satan and all of creation; 2) He drove Adam and Eve from the Garden so that they could no longer eat of the tree of life and live forever; and 3) He severed the spiritual connection into which He had created Adam and Eve in the first place. The latter is the spiritual gap that original sin caused, and I want to focus here on the extent to which God has already bridged that gap, how incredibly far God has gone to more than restore our former spiritual connection with Him. To do that, I will focus on God’s presence as manifested by the Holy Spirit.

Before sin entered into the world, it was just Adam, and Eve and God; He was their God, and they were His people, one might say. Once sin entered in, however, He was no longer their God, and they were no longer His people. This spiritual disconnection between God and mankind persisted from generation to generation, with God dwelling only with or among His people, keeping His distance, as it were.  But, God did promise that the day would come when He would be their God and they would be His people again (Jeremiah 24:7), as it was in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture.

So, in the fullness of time, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to spiritually reconnect (i.e., reconcile) mankind with Himself. But God went much farther than merely re-establishing the former spiritual connection. At Jesus’ request, God sent the Holy Spirit to actually dwell within each person who would receive Him as their Lord and Savior, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:27! Never before had the spiritual connection between God and mankind been either this intimate or this powerful. Now, all who believe in Jesus have within them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11)! Moreover, the fact that God would place the Holy Spirit within each new believer is proof positive that He has, in fact, made us to be “the righteousness of God in Christ (Romans 3:22).” Otherwise, we would not be morally fit for co-habitation by the Holy Spirit (Psalm 5:4)!

Now, let’s pause for a moment to summarize: God was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; God was with the Isrealites in the wilderness as they followed Him around for 40 years; God dwelled among the Israelites in temples built in the Promised Land for His presence; God was momentarily within at least one prophet when he was prophesying (Ezekiel 2:2); when Jesus came, God dwelled among men for 33 years and the spiritual connection with the Father was re-instated; but, when the Father sent the Holy Spirit to believers, for the first time ever God dwelled within men permanently. “Why is that such a big deal?”, you may ask. Its primarily because the Holy Spirit within us is a God-given guarantee that we will, for sure, always have eternal life (Ephesians 1:14)! Our salvation has been sealed by the Holy Spirit within us (Ephesians 1:13).

At the beginning of this article, I pointed out that God’s response to Adam’s “original sin” was three-fold, and, so far, I have dwelt on only the third response. But the Bible tells us that God will re-create the kind of utopian scenario that existed in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, and that we will be together with God once more on a renewed earth, where we will reign with Jesus forever. In the meantime, let’s remember that God has already done more than merely remedy our spiritual separation from Himself: His Spirit now dwells within us! God sure knows how to more than “reverse the curse”, doesn’t He?

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

A Note of Concern to Roman Catholics

Catechism ClipsA Note of Concern to Roman Catholics

 James R. Aist

I was a Roman Catholic for 20 years of my adult life. There are a number of things about the Roman Catholic Church with which I agree, and admire and appreciate. And I know several Roman Catholics who, by all indications, are born-again Christians, as I am. But I do have one concern in particular that I feel compelled to share with you.

To the best of my knowledge, the most important single doctrine of the Christian church is the doctrine of salvation, for it is what you believe (or, more precisely, in whom you believe!) about salvation that will ultimately determine your eternal destiny, whether it be heaven or hell. I developed the case (click HERE) for the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and not by either works alone or faith plus works. In the official Roman Catholic Catechism posted on the Vatican website, under the heading “Merit” (click HERE), the following paragraph speaks about the roles of “merit” (the particular term used in this Catechism to mean “good works” or “good deeds”) in the life and eternal destiny of the believer:

“2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (italics mine).

Here is the (italicized) excerpt to which I want to draw your attention: “…we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces neededfor the attainment of eternal life.” Now, with the understanding that “merit” is taken to mean “good works” or “good deeds” in this Catechism, what this paragraph is saying is that, once we are saved, our good works will earn for us the grace needed for eternal life.  Thus, it appears that the Roman Catholic Church clearly teaches a salvation doctrine of faith (in Jesus Christ) plus good works (merit), rather than the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone, and not by works.

Now, you may have the impression that this is probably a trivial and meaningless distinction, but let me bring to your attention the following words of the apostle Paul in this regard:

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith, apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28);

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3);

and now, the clinchers…

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4). In other words, if you are trying to justify yourself by your good works, then you are alienated from Christ and have fallen away from the very grace that is necessary to attain eternal life, rather than having earned that grace by your good works!

AND

For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless…” (Romans 4:13-15). That is to say, if you depend on your good works to qualify you for heaven, then your faith (in Jesus) is nullified and the promise (of eternal life) through that faith is worthless.

AND

“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5). In other words, if your salvation is wages for your good works, then it is not by grace (a free gift) that you are saved. But if your salvation is a result of your faith in Jesus, then you are saved by grace, not by works.

AND, in Jesus’ own words…

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29). No “works” at all are required, in the usual sense of the word, for one to be saved; only faith is required (belief).

How, then can we understand James 2:14-26, which seems to imply that works play a necessary role in our salvation? When one takes this passage in its entirety, it becomes evident that James is talking about two kinds of “faith” here. One kind is the same as the demons have, is dead, does not lead to salvation and does not produce good works. It is merely “mental ascent” to certain facts about the things of God.  The other kind of faith is alive, leads to salvation (i.e., it is “saving faith”) and produces good works. The good works are a result of, and evidence of, the kind of faith that saves, but they are not what brings about salvation; only saving faith does that.

One might reasonably summarize the teachings of Jesus, Paul and James on faith and works as they relate to salvation with this paraphrase: “A special kind of faith is required for salvation. It is a faith that leads to good works. The good works are evidence that one has “saving faith”, but they do not help one earn a place in heaven. God requires only that we have saving faith in Jesus Christ to qualify for heaven; the good works will follow naturally after one is saved.”

It would seem to me that the distinction I am making here is neither trivial nor meaningless; rather, it is vital and necessary for the attainment of eternal life, according the Bible, that is. For this reason, I sincerely hope that you will weigh my concern carefully, and then make any necessary adjustments, if any, to your professed doctrinal belief regarding salvation. After all, this is the doctrinal belief upon which your very eternal destiny hinges!

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Abortion: Biology, Bible and Forgiveness

A 3D ultrasound taken of a fetus at 17 weeks.Abortion: Biology, Bible and Forgiveness

James R. Aist

 “I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.” (Psalm 37:25-27)

Introduction

There is no moral issue that grieves and saddens me more than abortion. I believe that abortion is, perhaps, the most egregious example of man’s inhumanity to man. But I am not writing this article to preach, judge or condemn. My purpose and motivation are to have a positive influence, to help save the life of at least one unborn child and to encourage at least one regretful mother to find forgiveness and peace.

Biology

When I took my first formal course in high school Biology in about 1960, everyone seemed to know that human life begins at conception, the union of a man’s sperm with a woman’s egg. Without uniting in the womb, the egg and sperm have no human life at all and do not develop into anything; they remain just an egg and a sperm and soon die. The part of the human “life cycle” that we universally agree includes all of the developmental stages of human life from babies to teens to adults actually begins with conception in the mother’s womb. Those are the basic, biological facts of human reproduction. So, from a biological perspective, human life begins at conception and proceeds on an uninterrupted continuum of developmental stages, first in the womb, and then outside of the womb. There is no identifiable point in this continuum at which an unborn child becomes suddenly human; the unborn child is a human being all along. The idea that there is a moment when a developing child changes suddenly from non-human to human is a fantasy that has no basis whatsoever in the science of biology. Rather, it is purely a figment of the human imagination, designed to rationalize the termination of innocent human life in the womb and, thus, avoid the enormous emotional toll that routinely follows in the aftermath of an abortion.

Ultrasound images or videos — especially the new 3-D versions, see above — of a developing child in his/her mother’s womb will provide conclusive and convincing evidence that the unborn child is, indeed, a human being in the early stages of development.

Bible

To receive the guidance of the God of the Bible – the Creator of human life — let’s have a look at some Scripture passages relating to abortion:

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

How could David have been sinful before he was a person? If he was sinful from the moment of conception, then he must also have been a person from the moment of conception!

  • “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)
  • “I have been a Nazarite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb.” (Judges 16:17)
  • “… God… set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace…” (Galatians 1:15)

God has a plan for each of us, before we are even born! What is God’s plan for your unborn child?

  • “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them….” (Genesis 1:27)
  • “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” (Genesis 9:6)

Abortion is an attack on the very image of God himself.

I would guess that very few people are aware that the Bible has stern rebukes and dire warnings for those who approve of sin or encourage others to sin, but it does (Leviticus 19:1; Isaiah 5:20; Malachi 2:17; Matthew 5:19-20; Matthew 18:6; Romans 14:22). Thus, anyone, including born-again Christians, who even approves of or encourages the sin of abortion will, someday, have to answer to God for it. If that’s you, then now is the time to repent!

Forgiveness

Abortion is, first and foremost, a sin against God (see above). So, forgiveness and peace will come only through and from Him. Here’s how you can receive God’s forgiveness and peace:

  • Repent (turn away from your sins): “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Believe and Trust in Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Accept His Forgiveness: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  • Receive the Peace of Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It’s important to keep in mind that there is no sin that is so big and so bad that God will not forgive it. In fact, God wants to forgive you and bring you peace. He has made this promise to you: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). He is “faithful” to forgive you because He has promised to do so, and God does not lie or break His promises (Numbers 23:19); He is “just” to forgive you because Jesus paid the full price for your sins when He suffered and died for them, in your place, and, therefore, it would be unjust to not forgive you. And He doesn’t stop there. He will also cleanse you from the stain of your sin and of the guilt and shame associated with it; God will separate your sins from you “as far as the East is from the West” (Psalm 103:12), and he will not keep bringing it up and holding it against you (Isaiah 43:25). You have God’s word on it (Numbers 23:19), so take Him at His word, receive His forgiveness and move on with the peace of Christ; God has a wonderful plan for your life.

An Appeal for the Rights of the Unborn

If you want to make me cry, then remind me of the accidental traffic death of my daughter, Liesel, when she was only 20 years old. Or, remind me of the accidental drowning deaths of twin toddlers in Knoxville a few days ago. But, if you really want me to weep and mourn deeply, then remind me of the intentional deaths of tens of millions of innocent, helpless, unborn babies, murdered in their mother’s womb, in America since Roe v. Wade. The United States will have no claim whatsoever to any moral high ground concerning anything, unless and until we, as a nation, rise up against this, the most despicable of man’s inhumanity to man, and legally declare it to be what it is: murder of the worst kind. And that’s why we need more and more pro-life justices, judges, governors, legislators, presidents and God-fearing voters to lead the charge against abortion. America, bless God and stand against this national tragedy!

(For more articles on ABORTION, click HERE)