Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Saturday, July 30, 2005

DOCTRINE (Part 3) - The Essentials

[Edit, 13 August 2005: I am indebted to Matt Slick( http://www.carm.org/doctrine/essentials.htm ) for much of this argument. I will state one MAJOR reservation I have, however. Slick believes that one can be a universalist and still be Christian - in other words, you can believe everyone will be saved. I STRONGLY disagree - a person who thinks everyone will be saved does not understand the full severity of God's wrath against sinners, and thus cannot fully comprehend his / her own fallenness.

Slick, by the way, is not a universalist - he merely says universalists can be Christian, because he believes that the doctrine of Jesus as the "only way" is not essential. I disagree - a person who is a universalist believes (in essence) that there are other ways than Christ, and this is an implicit denial of Christ's Lordship and His death on behalf of sinners. Slick's error is serious - it risks giving false assurance to those who do not follow Christ.

A solid discussion of this issue may be found at Carla Rolfe's site, Reflections of the Times, where I first noticed mention of Slick's error. Slick's materials are generally solid and very useful, but as with any teacher (including myself!), I urge that Christians exercise discernment when using his materials.]

As I wrote previously, the Bible is full of doctrine. And all of what the Bible teaches is important and relevant. There is no such thing as unimportant doctrine. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible to write to the Church, and He would not have done this for no reason. Every teaching and all theology found in the Bible matters.

That said, we are imperfect, fallible human beings – even the Spirit-filled members of the Church. As Paul said, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away." Until we join Christ after this life, we will not fully be able to resolve all of our differences. Disagreement on Scriptural matters is inevitable, so what can be done about this?

The first thing we have to remember is that it is our Lord’s will that we in the Church be united:
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." (John 17:20-23)

God’s design for the Church is that we be united. The fact that we are divided into hundreds of quarreling denominations should be a matter of great sadness and shame to us all.

Make no mistake – sin is the root cause of division in the Church; sin in the lives and hearts of its members. Personality conflicts, refusal to heed correction and Biblical teaching, pride in our own cleverness, and our inability to put one another first all feed into the denominational problem.

So we must all, as Christians, humbly seek God’s forgiveness for the divisions in the Church, and seek His guidance and wisdom in addressing our problems with one another. We must pray for humility, to be willing to accept where we are wrong, and for discernment, that we would know the truth. We MUST strive for unity in the Church – unity of purpose, of teaching and doctrine, and of fellowship.

The second thing we must remember is this: We are at war. War means that the enemy is actively seeking to divide and destroy us. He will use any tool he can to do so. And so we must be aware that while we strive for unity, we must do so on God’s terms, or our efforts will be in vain. We must not settle for unity for its own sake. Unity must be based on truth.

Like in marriage, our unity must reflect the nature of God’s truth. Yes, we are called to love one another, and we must love everyone. But love is not a sufficient basis for unity! If our foundation for unity is simply a desire to be together, and our effort to show love, it will fall short of God’s standard.

I heard it said once that church unity is like marriage in that, like love, if it is not based on truth, is adultery. Our unity must be based on the truth of the Word of God – nothing less will do.

Now, as Christians, we recognize that in this life, we may never fully resolve our differences in interpreting the Bible. In Romans 14, Paul recognizes that differences will arise among true Christians, and identifies the cause: weakness of faith. In other words, spiritual maturity and strength varies from person to person, and some Christians will be earnestly mistaken. Paul exhorts us to tolerate minor differences of opinion.

Therefore, if we are to do so and retain our unity as a Church, and our identity as Christians, it is vital that we know which doctrines are non-negotiable. All the Bible’s teachings are important and true; certain teachings are so vital, however, that without them our faith falls. There are certain beliefs that are essential, without which a person cannot be considered a Christian.
In my view, the essentials of the Christian faith are as follows:

1). There is only one God.

God has made this so abundantly clear throughout Scripture that to deny it is to deny God’s Word. "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me." (Isaiah 43:10)

2). God is a Trinity – One God in Three Persons.

The Trinity is a difficult doctrine to comprehend – probably beyond our full comprehension. I will study the Trinity and its importance in greater detail another time. The Bible is abundantly clear, however, about the facts that make up the Trinity:

a). There is only one God (as stated above).
b). There are three Persons called God: the Father (Philippians 1:2), the Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:1, Colossians 2:9) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).
c). These three Persons are distinct in that they enjoy relationship with one another, speak to one another, and love one another (John 17:1-5, 26, Romans 8:26, John 14:16-17).
d). The three Persons are eternal (John 1:1, Micah 5:1-2, Hebrews 9:14). The Persons thus cannot be temporary, or merely offices, or roles, or manifestations – they are an eternal and inseparable fact of God’s nature.

God is a Trinity. This is fundamental to His nature, and to an understanding of Christian salvation. If God is not Triune, Jesus cannot mediate, the Spirit cannot intercede, and the Father could not punish the Son for sin. So, to deny the Trinity is to deny Christianity, and the Church has recognized this officially since the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century. This does not mean we have to fully understand it – this is probably impossible – but we but acknowledge and accept it.

3). Jesus Christ is fully God.

This is discussed above, as implicit to the Trinity.

4). Jesus Christ is fully man.

This is crucial to our salvation. Christ had to become flesh, a human being, in order to pay for sin committed by human beings (Romans 5:15-19) and to be a mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).

5). Sinlessness of Christ.

Christians are only counted righteous in God’s eyes because Christ’s righteousness is credited to their account (Romans 5:12-21). If Christ was not sinless, as the Bible says He was (1 Peter 2:22) then there is no human righteousness available to us, and we are all lost.

6). Christ’s death on the Cross as a substitutionary sacrifice.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Christ died, suffering the wrath of God against sin that rightfully should have been borne by us. For this reason, Paul boasted in the Crucifixion: "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14) If Christ was not crucified, God’s wrath against us has not been satisfied, and we are lost.

7). Christ’s resurrection.

Paul put it best: "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

In short, Christ’s resurrection is God’s guarantee that Christians will have eternal life. Without that, we have no hope whatsoever, and Christianity is pointless.

8). Salvation by grace alone through faith alone – not works!

The Apostle Paul was so dedicated to this doctrine, he wrote the whole letter of Galatians refuting salvation earned by human actions, and Paul is so clear about this matter that at its beginning, he said that anyone who denied this doctrine was "anathema" – cut off from the Church! (Galatians 1:6-9)

…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified… I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:16, 21)

If we have to earn our salvation by our actions, or add to Christ’s work, then we "nullify" Christ’s work. Salvation HAS to be by grace (the undeserved mercy and favour of God) through faith (our trust in Christ’s work for us) because in and of ourselves, we are powerless to save ourselves!

9). Christ is the only way to salvation.

Jesus said this Himself (John 14:6) and Peter later confirmed it (Acts 4:12). It’s self-evident – if there was another way to be saved, Christ didn’t have to die, and His sacrifice was wasted.

To these nine, I will add that all these doctrines are rooted in Scripture. Therefore, it is implied that we cannot deny Scripture, the Holy Bible, as the final authority of the Christian faith and still hold these beliefs.

As a Christian, I can call any person who believes these things my brother in Christ. We may disagree on other things – the proper method of baptism, for instance, or what kind of music to use in church. But we both have the same Lord and Saviour.

If a person denies ANY of these doctrines, I cannot call them Christian, and cannot have Christian fellowship with them. A Mormon cannot be my brother in Christ, for he denies the first point (that there is only one God). A Jehovah’s Witness cannot be my sister in Christ, for she denies that He is fully God. A Oneness Pentecostal cannot be called my brother in Christ, because he denies the Trinity. Many liberal "Christian" scholars cannot be considered believers, because they deny the resurrection. I must, will, and do love them as fellow bearers of God’s image, but they are among the lost and so are targets for evangelism, not fellow believers.

God has drawn these "lines in the sand" and explained them in the Bible. These are not our own rules, they are His. And these must be the fundamental basis of unity.

Friday, July 29, 2005

That Dirty “D” Word – DOCTRINE.... (Part 2)

Interestingly, another profession that uses the term "doctrine" is the military.

In the profession of arms, doctrine is a nation’s systematic approach to the problem of warfare. It is influenced by the organization’s history and experience; it is developed by professionals who have studied and practiced warfare.It explains the fundamental principles of conflict and it provides an organizational point of view on how war should be fought.

Military doctrine dictates how a nation fights. For example, the old Soviet Union, knowing that technologically they trailed the West, recognized that their superior numbers and lack of human rights constraints could be made an advantage. So they built a war machine that relied heavily on overwhelming numbers of cheap, simple, rugged, easy-to-use tanks and other equipment, that required far less training and maintenance than did the sophisticated Western systems, and that could be used by large numbers of quickly (and poorly) trained draftees. The soldiers were subjected to draconian discipline, discouraged from thinking for themselves, so that the Russian generals would be able to control their troops more completely. They hoped that they could overwhelm the NATO forces with sheer numbers, knowing that they would suffer terrible losses
but certain that they would outlast the smaller Western armies.

NATO, for its part, decided that highly trained and skilled troops were worth the investment, and the nations of the Alliance were more prosperous and could afford more complex equipment. The more individualistic Western societies encouraged their soldiers to think for themselves and to take initiative, making for a more flexible and adaptive military.

Although the two sides never fought, the results of the two schools of thought played out in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Soviet-backed Arab nations were defeated again and again by the much-smaller but more innovative and technologically advanced Western-influenced Israeli forces, which had taken German tactics from the Second World War as their model (isn’t that ironic?).

Now, think of the Christian life as war. That’s what it is, isn’t it? We have an enemy. He probes us for weaknesses and attacks us. Only by working together, and following our instructions from our Divine Commander, the Lord of Hosts, can we survive.

It’s interesting that, along with his repeated and impassioned calls to hold fast to sound doctrine, Paul compared the Christian’s preparation for the spiritual battlefield to the equipment of a Roman soldier:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:11-18)

Notice that the first metaphor Paul uses here is that of a belt – the belt of truth. The truth of Christianity is Christian doctrine. When we teach truth in our churches and Sunday schools, we are instructed in Christian doctrine. So why does Paul compare it to a belt? Well, the Roman soldier’s equipment – the breastplate, his clothing, his sword and dagger – would have all been held together by the belt. Even modern soldiers wear what’s called a Webb belt – off of which hangs pouches for a water canteen, ammunition, gas mask, and most of the other things a soldier requires in combat.

In short, truth holds together all of a Christian’s spiritual combat gear. Without truth, you’re useless on the battlefield and much of your spiritual equipment is useless. How can one be righteous if one has no truth, or follows false doctrines? How can one carry his weapons into battle, the message of the Word, if one has not learned the truth?

And our truth is Christ. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Without an accurate understanding of the truth of Christ, as described in the Bible, we find ourselves useless on the spiritual battlefield.

Do you have a commitment to truth? Is the truth you hold completely in accordance with God's Word? Have you read the verses about sin, and salvation? Can you explain them? Defend them against those who would distort them?

Just as a soldier must remember and act upon his training to fight, a Christian must know and be skilled in applying, living, and explaining the truth of Christ - our Christian doctrine.

That Dirty “D” Word – DOCTRINE.... (Part 1)

Oh, how I used to hate that word and what I thought it stood for!

I was raised in Reformed churches. When I was between eleven and thirteen, I really didn’t like going to church. To me, the sermons were long, and dull, and boring, and full of "legalistic" doctrine.

When my parents moved us to a nondenominational community church, I thought I was in heaven. Finally, it seemed like fun to go to church! The music was contemporary and upbeat, and I didn’t have to worry about any of that stuffy doctrine stuff. No one was trying to make me memorize creeds, or confessions...

Fast forward ten years. I’d just arrived in the Fredericton area, and by then I had been drifting in my faith for some time. My lifestyle was decidedly non-Christian, and I felt deep down inside that something was wrong. I found a new church in Fredericton to go to, where the people were open and friendly, committed to Christ, and enthusiastic about spreading the Gospel. The teaching from the pulpit was, and is, solid and Biblical. God used this church to draw me back to Himself.

That said, however, when I first arrived, I began attending the young adults group. One of the first times there, the small group leader, who was probably my age, said something that I KNEW was wrong. She didn’t believe people were born evil. She thought everyone was basically good.

Those of you reading who know something about Church history and theology recognize this girl’s position – the “doctrine” she was teaching. (I’ll stop and point out quickly that this is decidedly NOT the doctrine taught by my church – this girl was simply a university student with little theological knowledge, who was acting as a facilitator.) She was teaching (unknowingly) the heresy of Pelagius – the idea that there is no original sin, that the Fall had no effect on anyone else, that everyone is born morally innocent and that therefore God’s grace isn’t required for salvation. The heresy Augustine fought so hard against. The heresy condemned by the Church at the Councils of Orange, Florence, and Carthage, and still considered heretical by most Protestants and Catholics alike.

At the time, though, I didn’t know all that stuff, and I had been gone from church so long and was now so Biblically illiterate that I couldn’t come up with any verses to back myself up. I tried to argue, but my argument was disorganized and unconvincing, and I had to give up. I just knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t really say why. And I couldn’t understand how anyone could believe something that seemed, to be, to be a self-evident part of the faith. How could anyone believe human beings are basically good, looking at the world we live in? How could anyone be born good or neutral, if everyone – no exceptions (Romans 3:23) sins?

Since then, I’ve found that many people in the evangelical church – including many Baptists, Pentecostals, and others I have the opportunity to meet from time to time – have very little appreciation for the ancient doctrines and confessions of the church. Their theology tends to reflect the songs popular in the church today – short, repetitive, and very little profound teaching – than it does the old catechisms and confessions. And that’s a shame.

Ask yourself, while you read this: Can I explain what these words mean? I’m convinced the average Christian in a contemporary, evangelical church these days would not be able to define words like Atonement, Justification, Sanctification, Propitiation, or Glorification. And these “big theological words” are vital to a correct understanding of the most important issue there is – human salvation!

The poor girl didn’t know, and probably doesn’t to this day, the Biblical teaching about man’s sinful state. Most evangelical Christians these days, especially in non-denominational churches, but increasingly in the mainline denominations, aren’t taught a confession, or a catechism, or any system of theology or doctrine. When pressed, most couldn’t explain why, for instance, it was important that Jesus be born of a virgin. An understanding of doctrine would go a long way toward restoring the health of the Church.

Why the anecdote? Well, those “boring and dull” sermons, the congregational responsive reading of the Heidelburg Catechism that I didn’t really understand, the history lessons about all those heretics and controversies and doctrinal battles – they sunk in! By the grace of God, and without realizing it until much later, I had been taught enough of the fundamental Christian doctrines to discern and keep myself from error.

Doctrine sounds so stuffy and boring to many Christians. But it’s so vital.

Satan has used heresies to confuse and divide the Church ever since the beginning. The Arians tried to convince the Church that Jesus wasn’t fully God. The Gnostics claimed that hidden knowledge imparted to a select few was the key to salvation. The Pelagians, saying that humanity is basically good, went so far as to say that there are people who could live sinless lives without God’s help!

The way to stay safe from heresy, and to ensure that our beliefs reflect the Bible, is to pay attention to sound doctrine. This concept is so vital that the Apostle Paul spoke of good and bad doctrine no less than ten times in the Epistles – and half of those to Timothy and Titus, men he was training to be pastors!

“But doctrine divides!” Yes! It does! That's the point!!

It divides truth from error. It is the line between accuracy and falsehood. It is the difference between orthodoxy and heresy. If preaching doctrine is divisive, it isn’t the fault of doctrine – it’s the fault of the heresy or inaccurate theology that tries to change the teaching of Christ.

When you play hockey, you follow the rules and regulations (the "doctrine") of hockey. If you try to pick up the puck and skate with it, it's wrong and it's not part of the game. You're importing rules ("doctrine") from other sports, like rugby and football, just as heresies import foreign doctrines into Christianity. Now, if the referee blows the whistle on this behaviour, does the player have any right to complain, "Your rules are divisive! I should do what I want!"? Of course not!

If you want to play hockey, follow the rules of the game. If you want to be a Christian, heed its teachings and submit it its doctrines - you can't import your own.

“Don’t give me doctrine – just give me Jesus!”

A Jesus without doctrine... So why not the New Age Jesus? Or John Dominic Crossan's Jesus, who never rose from the dead and was eaten by dogs? Or how about the Jehovah's Witnesses' Jesus, who wasn't eternal, but was a created being, and thus isn't God?

"Wait, that's not what I meant..." Exactly! - without doctrine, you don't mean anything! "Jesus" becomes just an empty word, without meaning.

With apologies to James, you show me Jesus without doctrine, and I will show you Jesus BY my doctrine. Just as faith without works is a dead and false faith, so Christianity without doctrine is not Christianity at all. Doctrine is truth, and is our standard when judging truth. For the Christian faith to have any meaning, for the word “Christian” to actually mean anything at all, there must be a system of truth that it represents. And that truth can’t be simply whatever we want it to be – it must defined by the teaching of Scripture.

Now, in another post I’ll talk about the distinctions between essential and nonessential doctrine. Not every difference is worth a battle or a separation. But make no mistake – the Bible is a book full of doctrine. If we want to know God better, we should strive daily to understand His Word accurately and truthfully.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

If You're Not Christian, Please Read This!

If you’re a non-Christian reading this, you have probably heard Christians talking about "salvation," the "Gospel," "sin," and "giving your life to Jesus." You may understand them, but chances are that you may not.

What does it mean to be Christian? First and foremost, a Christian has heard and responded to the Gospel message. And what is that?

I’ll let the Bible explain for itself.

1) There is only one God, creator of heaven and earth.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.(Genesis 1:1)
…know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. (Deuteronomy 4:39)

2) God is perfect and He is holy – that is, there is no injustice or wrong in Him.

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" (Isaiah 6:3)
"The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he." (Deuteronomy 32:4)

3) Because He is Holy, He expects nothing less than perfection from us.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10)

4) Humanity is lost in sin, because of the actions of Adam. As a result of his sin, we all sin.

"but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’"… she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:3,6b)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… (Romans 5:12)
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (Romans 3:23)

5) We are all condemned to death for our sins - every human being. Furthermore, God punishes the wicked eternally in hell.

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a)
…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever… Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:10, 14-15)

6) No human being can save himself. Even our good deeds can't make us right with God.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23)
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight... (Romans 3:20a)
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)

7) Because of our fallen state, Jesus Christ became a man, lived a sinless life, died on the Cross, and after three days, rose again from the dead.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22)
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures... (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

8) Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was a perfect sacrifice to pay the price for sin. Innocent, He stood as a substitute for sinners, facing God's wrath on their behalf.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit... (1 Peter 3:18)

9) There is no other way than by God's mercy and grace, through faith in Christ alone. Obedience and good deeds cannot save you.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)

10) Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ will be saved and enjoy eternal life with God.

"For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:40)
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Please, if you haven't come to Christ, listen to what I say. We have all sinned - that means, every man, woman, and child among us has defiled the image of God Himself, the image in which we were all made! This is a capital crime.

Think of vandalism. If a vandal spraypaints a beat-up Dodge Aries, it's wrong. If a vandal spraypaints the roof of the Sistine Chapel, or the Mona Lisa, his act is far more serious. Why? Because of the VALUE of that which is defaced.

And our rebellion against God, our rejection of Him and disobedience towards Him, is a crime against that which is eternally perfect and holy, and of infinite value - God Himself. This calls for no less than eternal punishment.

I am deadly serious. Search yourself. Examine your life, your heart. Have you ever done anything wrong, against anyone else? Of course - we all have. And this is your death sentence.

Like everyone else, you are a sinner. Confess your sinfulness to Him, admit that you cannot save yourself or live up to His standard. And trust in Jesus Christ. Have faith that He is who He said He is, that His death has paid the price for sin, and that He will take you in His arms and keep you.

This is the only way!

Welcome to Hold Fast!

Welcome to my new blog!

I’ve named this little corner of the Internet "Hold Fast." This is a command found throughout the Bible – to hold fast to one’s wife, to the Christian faith, to what one has been taught, and finally to God Himself.

In a world gone mad, filled with terror and crime, depraved and unjust, Christians are called to be a light in the darkness. We are called to show the hope we have in Christ. This requires an ironclad commitment to the truth found in the Bible – the message of humanity’s wickedness, God’s resolve to punish all wrongdoing, the work of Christ to pay the price for the sins of those who believe, the promise of salvation by God’s grace through faith, and the hope of resurrection and eternal life for God’s people.

This is not a popular message. Even within the church, increasing numbers of people are uncomfortable with the clear, hard message God has for humanity. The temptation to compromise our beliefs in exchange for acceptance and tolerance by our sinful, fallen world will be strong. It is more and more attractive to downplay the tougher elements of the Christian message – the reality of hell and eternal punishment, the fact that Christ is the ONLY way to God, the requirement for men to confess and repent of the sins in their lives, and the call to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Christ.

This we cannot do. For the sake of God’s glory, for the sake of the Cross, for the sake of the world around us, we MUST present our message clearly and completely, regardless of the consequences.

So why the address "against-the-world?"

In the early centuries of the Church, a man in Alexandria, Egypt, by the name of Athanasius, stood for God’s truth. In his day, the majority of the teachers in the Church were denying that Christ was fully God, that He had always existed – indeed, denied God’s nature, the Trinity, itself. Athanasius was banished from his city no less than six times, and never gave up his dogged fight for truth.

When he died, the heretics of the day were still immensely powerful. Yet by the grace of God, Athanasius’ firm stand for truth was heard. Today, the Church fearlessly teaches that there is one God, in three Persons.

Athanasius was not a popular man. In his day, he was called "Athanasius contra mundum" – Athanasius against the world.

Christ calls us to stand firm. Christ calls us to stand against the world.

There’s more to come. Hold fast.