The Promised Witness Shows up

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The Promised Witness Shows up

James R. Aist

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16)

This encounter happened in the mid-1980s, when my first wife and I were struggling with the ramifications of an impending divorce. For me, these were times of incredible stress, anxiety, sadness and depression. I could see my most cherished dreams – dreams of a lifelong marriage, a stable and lasting family life, and three children brought up to know and love God – I could see all of that disintegrating before my very eyes. And there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I had already tried everything I could think of, to no avail.

It was when I was at my lowest point, crying out for relief from the stress and confusion, that Satan literally spoke into my mind one day, as if he were sitting on my left shoulder. He said words to this effect: “Jesus isn’t the son of God. You don’t really believe that he is, do you? Look at how much stress that’s causing you. Why don’t you give up on that and just go along with the flow? That will make things a lot easier for you.” And he repeated the same message. But, when he would say this to me, something glorious would happen. As if He were an angel sitting on my right shoulder, the Holy Spirit would simply speak into my mind saying, “Remember what I told you when you were saved: ‘Believe that Jesus is the son of God. Don’t ever let go of that; it’s the most important thing you have.’” When this back and forth, spiritual battle for my soul between Satan and the Holy Spirit was over, I was still holding on to my faith in Jesus, and Satan was defeated. Praise be to God!

I found out later that this witness of the Holy Spirit was a direct fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in John 15:26, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me…” And Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” That witness of the Holy Spirit was the only thing that got me through that dark and sinister time of intense, diabolical testing. What’s more, that witness of the Holy Spirit helped me hold on to the only real friend I had at that time, Jesus Christ. I believe that Proverbs 18:24 is speaking of Jesus when it says “… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

The lessons I learned from this encounter with God and the devil are these: When everything and everyone else has failed you, remember that you still have Jesus; He is all you need to see you through; and, the Holy Spirit will ensure that Jesus will remain your friend no matter what, or who, attacks your faith (Romans 8:38-39).

Of course, these lessons apply only to those whom God has saved. Have you let God save you yet? If not, what are you waiting for? He’s waiting for you!

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

Salvation: It’s More About God Than Us!

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Salvation: It’s More About God Than Us!

James R. Aist

I almost entitled this article “Its All About God”, because, in a sense, it is. Salvation is how God transforms us from creations that dishonor and scandalize Him into new creations that praise and glorify Him. But, I relented, because I didn’t want to minimize the mind-boggling magnitude of God’s love for us, which was amply demonstrated when Christ died in our place (Romans 5:8). Hence, “salvation is more about God than us” better captures the fullness of what I hope to get across in this article.

I would venture to guess that most born-again Christians have gotten the impression that salvation is all about us. After all, God so loved us (John 3:16), Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and salvation is a free gift to us (Romans 5:15-16). And, if the only reason that God saved us was to keep us out of hell and bless us forever, then salvation would be all about us. But, there’s more to it than that, much more. So, I’ll get right to the point.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” In an earlier article, I presented a biblical basis for these conclusions (click HERE). The first of these two conclusions tells us God’s primary motive in creating us; that is, to glorify Himself. The second conclusion “…to enjoy him for ever”, describes what God intended for us to get out of our new relationship with Him; namely, to enjoy Him forever in heaven, which is eternal life. But, when sin entered the world, death followed, and mankind no longer glorified God and ceased to enjoy Him at all, much less forever. And, that’s where salvation came in. God had a plan to restore mankind to the original, created condition, so that mankind would, once again, glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

So, exactly how is our salvation more about God than it is about ourselves? Let’s start with salvation belongs to God (Psalm 3:8; Revelation 7:10 and 19:1), and go from there. When His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, was born, the angels ascribed glory to God (Luke 2:14). This Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), through which we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). Moreover, we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And, it is God who chose us for salvation, not the other way around (click HERE).  We are reminded repeatedly in the New Testament that our victories in Christ are for the glory of God. In fact, a quick search of the New Testament (MEV) produced at least 50 verses that speak of various ways that mankind gives glory to God. Even our confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11). Salvation is about the glory of God first and foremost, from the beginning covenant given to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), right through to the New Covenant, sealed in the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:25). God is the giver here, while we are the recipients, and it is the giver to whom all the glory for our salvation belongs, because God will not share His glory with others (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). Without such a great salvation, we would have remained without God and without hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12)! It was God’s ingenious plan of salvation that paved the way for mankind to, once again, glorify God. As a result, mankind is enabled to enjoy Him forever, which, by the way, is also to the glory of God (Romans 15:7)!

That said, please don’t get the idea that I am discounting the role that God’s love for us played in motivating Him to save us; I am not. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)! And, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). For sure, we are eternally grateful for God’s great love toward us! But, in contemplating the gift of salvation, we often tend to forget that God created us to glorify Himself in ways that no other being that He created on the earth is able to, because only we can really know Him and love Him back (click HERE). That, I believe, was His ultimate purpose in creating mankind in the first place: to reflect His glory back to Him, just as Jesus does (Hebrews 1:3 with 2 Corinthians 3:18). And now, thanks to God, we are willing and able to do that!

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

That They May Have “Life”

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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)

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)