Monthly Blog Archives for
His Master's Voice
|Copyright © 2006, 2007 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
September 5, 2006
What Must I Feel to be Saved?
Today, someone who has read some of my articles ( at thefaithulword.org ) wrote some thought-provoking questions from the heart. After writing back in answer, I considered the sincere and weighty nature of the questions and decided to also post the questions and answers here. Personal details and names have been stripped away, only the questions and answers remain.
Will God accept wrong motives mixed in with right motives when someone approaches God for conversion unto salvation? And do these motives have to be in a proper order?
God, in His Word, advocates coming to Him from a motivation of fear (Matthew 10:28), love (Matthew 22:37), conviction of sin (1 Corinthians 14:24), and doubtless other motivations which I have not here explored. There is no proper sequence espoused by Scripture. Are there "right" or "wrong" motives?
If one were to "accept the Gospel" simply for the goal of acquiring pleasure or joy at the hand of the Lord, WITHOUT recognizing his sinful state and without repentance in faith, then he must surely question his salvation; for Jesus says in Luke 8 that those who claim acceptance of the gospel just to get joy from it, those men have no firm root [of faith or repentance] and are likely to quickly fall away from the faith.
An historical example of men receiving Christ in and for joy is the day He entered Jerusalem to cheering and joyful crowds who waved palm branches. Most of these cheering rejoicing folks had no faith and fell away, even calling for His execution. Motives of lust for inner joy and the selfish seeking of pleasure by themselves may not be sufficient for salvation, and represent the only motivations of which I am aware for coming to Christ that may be considered "wrong" motives (James 4:1-4).
Remember, God is the One Who calls us. And calls us for His purposes. It matters not one bit which motive He stirred within us to invoke that call. Lust for pleasure is the one motive which men invoke within themselves on their own power to obtain those things which they want for themselves (James 4:1-4). Therefore, I personally doubt that God uses lust to invoke a call to repentance.
Would you see a "red flag" about a person's salvation if they had a conviction that they were a sinner and worthy of Hell, but that conviction was merely the size of a mustard seed? I have heard the expression that a person cannot be saved until they realize they are truly lost. That some people are too good (in their eyes) to be saved and never realize they need Christ. Does this conviction of sin have to be big and not tiny? Thus, does even a tiny, mustard seed sized conviction provide sufficient basis to be saved (just like it is enough for faith-Luke 17:20) or would you say that they truly have to have more to realize they need Christ and thus are not saved yet?
Conviction is not measurable. Nor is faith measurable. Any amount of conviction that calls a man to repent and confess before God is sufficient, for that conviction did one thing, it answered the call of God to repent, believe, and be saved. Consider the question: how many tons of sand on the beach does it take to irritate your eye to the point where you are motivated to try to cleanse your eye? If you clear your eye with the first immeasurable grain which lodges in your eyelid, then you have your answer.
It is my opinion that Jesus used the illustration of the mustard seed regarding faith to demonstrate that faith is not measurable, especially the starting point of faith. The mustard seed is among the smaller category of seeds, yet it results in a big plant. Faith, or conviction, is too small to measure, but ultimately it results in obvious and visible changes in a man's life (i.e. the tree which bears fruit). The size of the original seed is irrelevant, the point is, we should expect the resulting works of faith from that original tiny seed to grow into massive trees which bear much fruit.
How much do FEELINGS play in salvation and sanctification?
Feelings, or emotions, are nothing more than motivators which convert what we know about God intellectually into actions of love. If you are taking action for the benefit of God and others, then you are acting from and in love, directed by your understanding of God's Word (
As for sanctification, will a person always FEEL they deserve Hell and feel their sins are an abomination to God all the time? If they don't FEEL like they did at their original conversion, are they saved? I have heard it said that the Reformers said that once a person is saved they will become more aware of their sinfulness and grieve more...but what if someone's feelings are inconsistent on this?
In my opinion, a person will always feel like they earned Hell by means of their sin and unbelief. However, a saved person will stop feeling like they are going to Hell.
As we gain time between our conversion and our present state of salvation, we begin to forget how terrible we were, or how given to sin and unbelief we were. We begin to think, "I was never that bad." It is at times like that when we need to remember what we really looked like to God and to renew our gratitude of His salvation bestowed on us.
If we find ourselves saying, "I never needed Christ's sacrifice to get to heaven because I was never a sinner," then we have yet to comprehend that God's standard for entrance to heaven is perfection. Someone who thinks themselves perfect now and always, is still lost in their sins for they have not yet repented (1 John 1:8-10).
If we find ourselves saying, "a righteous and loving God wouldn't send a mostly good person to Hell," then we misunderstand God's role as savior, man's status as a depraved sinner, and His standard for eternity in heaven. Yet, even with imperfect knowledge, God may be merciful to such a one of poor faith, so long as faith is present. I would hasten to add, it is never wise to contradict God or His Word, and if tempted to do so, one must examine their own motives and faith. Yet, surely unbelief in Christ (and therefore, lack of repentance) is the only criteria for going to Hell, is it not?
September 8, 2006
Being Precise, Being Diligent -- Why Is That No Longer the Expectation?
As so many times before, I heard a preacher, this time on the radio, talking about Hebrews 12:1-3. He said, in part:
"Hebrews 12:1-3 says we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses standing on the sidelines of our individual lives who will be our cheerleaders as we run our race, or boo us if we fail. I don't know how these persons are all around each of us all the time, but let's not get bogged down in the mystical details, they are there to watch us and shout encouragement to us." And so on.
Yet, this is not what the word witness means in this passage. This is not what the context demands of the interpretation for this passage. In truth, Hebrews 12:1-3 should have been included as part of Hebrews 11:1-40, for it is the persuasive climax and the point of Hebrews 11. Hebrews 11 is often called the "Bible's Hall of Faith."
We have thousands of years of written history which describes men and women of faith who came before us. These men and women testify to us, witness to us, that God is good and that faith in God is worth living for and worth dying for. This history of faithful people is so vast that the writer of Hebrews says that time would fail him if he tried to be more inclusive in describing the vast cloud of witnesses who testify to us of the need to be faithful (Hebrews 11:32).
This cloud of historical witnesses (Gk. "witnesses" or "martyrs") who testify to us of their own lives lived in faith surrounds us as a cloud of water droplets on a foggy day, their numbers being so great. It is an inescapable witness to us. We have no excuse if we chose not to see them, or to hear their testimonies.
And it is Christ Himself who we are to set our eyes upon, for He is the one who awaits us at the finish line in the race of our personal lives. Jesus, yet another who testifies to us of the need for faith, is not really just another witness, He is also the source and the object of that faith.
So then, what difference does it make if someone casually reads Hebrews 12:1-3 and misunderstands what "a cloud of witnesses" means? Aside from the obvious flirtation with a mystical (and imaginary) cheerleading squad, and the temptation to play to that nonexistent crowd instead of fixing our gaze on Christ, there is the principle of responsibility involved here.
Preachers and teachers are responsible to actually study the Word of God before preaching about it. Study, diligent study, involves far more than simply reading a passage and speaking about it off-the-cuff. We have, I fear, traded off good exegetical practices in favor of holding friendly (but unstudied) dialogues that make people feel good.
Hebrews 11 and 12 were written to demonstrate that we have no excuse for not understanding the need for, and the cost of, exercising faith in God. The cloud of martyrs who have lived and died before us bears us witness that faith is costly but eternally important. Faith requires commitment and endurance.
How is it that we have turned a biblical message on the need for endurance to the point of death into a feel good talk about having a personal squad of cheerleaders? How? The answer is that this age has lost its will for endurance. The very thing Hebrews 11 and 12 warns us about! We have lost the energy, the drive, the determination, to be faithful to all of God's commands and to His Word, even to the very end. Study is hard, and it requires the diligence of faith--it requires endurance.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
September 24, 2006
"Retro" Clothing Takes on New Meaning
While talking to an acquaintance in the church lobby this morning, I caught a glimpse of a very unique and closely familiar shirt as it raced by. The shock of seeing a 30 year old personal clothing item from my own closet pass in front of my field of vision actually stopped me talking in mid-sentence (a most difficult feat for anyone or anything to impose upon me).
Looking more carefully, I noted that the fit of the shirt belied that the wearer was not the owner, as it draped over the shoulders and sagged down to the elbows of the arms. Yet, I was struck by a warm feeling of pride as my eyes recognized my pre-teen son as he too proudly wove his way through the assembled worshippers in his "retro" shirt, a relic from my personal past.
It was heartening to see that my son had determined that dad's old shirt was way cool and had decided to clothe himself in it. By wearing my old shirt, it struck me that he looked like me, as if I was watching myself from afar. I could not help but smile--my son looked like me, or perhaps it would be wiser to say, the way I used to look.
Is this, I wonder, how God views us when we attempt to imitate His Son? When we put on His robes of righteousness, His tunic of holiness?
and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:24)
and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- (Colossians 3:10)
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)
We put on the new self, but the clothing items that cover the new self are the eternally ancient "retro" articles of truth, love, and righteousness which have clothed God and Jesus from everlasting to everlasting. These are hand-me-downs which I should be proud to wear, and, I suspect, God is pleased to see us wear and cherish them as did His only begotten Son when He walked among men. Does He see anything of His own likeness or that of His Son in me?
September 30, 2006
Personal Defeat--Keeping Perspective
Do you remember when your mother or father offered you this advice right after you experienced either a great triumph or a horrible personal failure: "There is always someone waiting to take you on who is better than you."? They meant that to be an encouragement, to make you understand that defeat is just as much a part of life as is triumph and that everyone experiences defeat every now and then. A kid should neither feel too bad for losing nor be too cocky for winning, this time.
Now by defeat, I do not mean sin, rather, I mean that in whatever way we personally choose to measure the success of personal ministries, or the success of our family life, or even the success of our fellowship with others, we seem to always fall short of our personal expectations and fail to live up to the measures of what we think ought to be considered 'success.' Assuming you are one of us who feels they more often see defeat than triumph, take comfort in these facts:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing [gifts] to each one individually just as He wills.
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (excerpts from 1 Corinthians 12)
Both our triumphs and our perceived defeats serve the common good of the body of Christ. And while there is probably someone who is more skilled, talented, and spiritually gifted in whatever ministry area to which you have been called, your unique ministry is necessary, honorable, and achieves a unique effect within the church which no one, not even a more gifted person, can achieve. Whether they know, understand, or believe it, your ministry is necessary to the church and good for them, and it will have an effect that no one else may ever be able to accomplish.
And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. (1 Corinthians 12:5-6)
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