The Truth... What is it?





JESUS CHRIST'S CHURCH

My now deceased mother reminded me in 2005 of her years ago conversation with her Aunt Lola Brown Cantey. "I was talking with Aunt Lola and mentioned that a friend had told me that every pastor/priest of a certain church could trace the laying on of hands all the way back to the Apostle, Peter. Aunt Lola thought a minute and said, 'Mildred, that's a nice little thought; and it doesn't hurt anyone.'"

My bottom line...and there is more detail & discussion, below...as of mid-2016 is that the greatest present and future status for a human is to be FULLY SAVED.

Does any religion...any church or denomination "have it all right"? For example, up through the Salem witch trials of the 1690s, there was no "scientific" knowledge. Natural phenomena such as lightning could only be conceived of as the work of Satan or the wrath of God. It was Capt. James Cook of the second half of the 1700s who demonstrated so well the infant science of oceanic navigation. The nature of the terror of lightning would not be proven to be electricity until about 1750 (Ben Franklin). Antibiotics to save us from deadly infections would not arrive until 1930-40. Causes of "terrors" have been found so that it is now more plausible to understand the love & grace of God rather than such a focus on natural events as being the wrath of God. Therefore, doctrine evolves. So, out of ALL doctrine, what doctrine is critical...what does truly matter? The truth matters, and I believe that each individual is left to struggle for a lifetime toward TRUTH!

Your local church: We usually join a local church by way of family or friend connections. Or, we visit around until we feel comfortable in a certain church. And, later, we sometimes leave a church for another church for various reasons. It is my experience that Satan is very alive in both (1) the local secular community and (2) in each local church! Blasphemous!? In this fallen human world, the church cannot be a place free of conflict, dispute, and debate. As people search for a local church, they wrestle with many thoughts that are negative and disparaging and the opposite of mutual toleration and acceptance of all who want to seek The Way of Jesus. BUT, it should be a place working diligently and faithfully toward (1) right relationships and (2) reconciliation of problems through the loving effort of right relationships. So, most of us need to be in a church with balance that (1) turns out to be the least aggitating of negative feelings and (2) the most attractive toward relating with each other rightly. Therefore, humanity probably actually needs this vast denominational variety.

Jesus answered a Jewish lawyer (Luke 10:26): "And He said to him, 'What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?'"

First, there is only one true God, YHWH. It is historically said that the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all focus upon this God. In view of 9/11/2001..."9/11", Abraham's God has been seriously misunderstood by some seriously destructive groups! Judaism and Christianity each focus on their deliverance from slavery: [a] for Jews, the Exodus from 400 years enslavement in Egypt & for [b] Christians, the crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross paying the price for the delivery of mankind from the enslavement to sin. However, just in the realm of Christian belief, we see some 41,000 denominations worldwide who stand variously divided by different doctrinal or theological views. HERE is an overall chart of the evolution of Christianity and HERE is a chart of the evolution of Protestant Christianity. Yet, Jesus clarified that the KEY focus is on relationships: (1) man to God and (2) man to man. Interestingly, I do not know that Jesus ever instructed followers to go out and build churches.

Does Jesus only love Christians? Foundational Truths:

There is a kinship of all who worship God. Like it or not, Jesus (1) is messiah to ALL mankind and does not just love those who call on His name. It is unlikely that all of mankind can take this Truth in until the wide variety of Christian faiths quit slamming each other over differences in doctrinal issues. Whereas all other religions are structured to get close to God by pleasing God, Christianity alone (2) claims the relationship to God because God Himself does the work (the relationship begins strictly by the love and grace of God). And, among the sayings of key figures of religions, (3) Jesus never said anything which allows or condones hatred & killing in the name of God. Be clear that, despite squabbling about various issues, all Christian worship groups have COMPLETE UNITY in the belief that earthly and eternal salvation is by...in...Jesus the Christ.

The Church Universal

The "Universal Church" (The Universal Body of Believers) of Jesus is invisible and composed of all those who have truly come to belief in Jesus as Lord & Savior and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit...no one of us can look at someone else and deeply & truly know whether that person is part of that universal church body or not. The Kingdom of God includes this here and now, on this earth group...the Universal Church...plus other true believers in the God of Abraham, the one true God. The term, "Christian", is actually nebulous.

[meanings of "church" compared]

However, as Jesus followers tried to follow in The Way, they organized (for purposes of fellowship, worship, discipleship, evangelization, and ministry) into visible, concrete local bodies or groups, such as the patriarchal churches. To this present day, such local bodies of believers run the risk of being prideful religious clubs. They should be local groups of Jesus followers who, in their charity and humility, accept any new Jesus investigator or follower or transferring Jesus follower into their fellowship.

The historic sister church divisions of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) are fully united over the profession that: (1) the historical Jesus of Nazareth is the divine son of God (the God of Abraham), (2) the promised Messiah/Savior, and (3) that Jesus is Lord (boss, master of a believer's life). Jesus brought the "good news"...the Gospel. In addition, from the very beginning, there subsequently were probably small independent Christian church bodies whose difficult-to-trace-and-verify historical offspring may exist today (though the powers of the Roman Empire tried to kill them all). We also know from Paul & Peter that, in no time at all, false-teaching "Christian" churches arose. However, there are additional foundational beliefs (doctrines) that continue to divide Christians to this present day.

However each of the 3 great divisions/branches of Christianity might vary in details and practices, one should build on the above three foundational truths, the core essence of the Christianity of the born-again, true believer (if you are a true believer, you ARE a new creation, "born again"!!!). Further, any religious group that denies the combined humanity and divinity of Jesus is, at the very least, seriously misguided and seriously under-estimating of the power of Almighty God. At worst, such people could even be among the false teachers Christians have been warned about ("If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed." [Paul...Galatians 1:9]). Lastly, membership in any type of Christian church in society does not automatically confer membership into the Universal Church...The Universal Body of Believers (that membership only comes after a person becomes indwelt by the Holy Spirit..."born again"). As the parable of the wheat & tares (weeds) declares (Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43), the local church congregations will contain both true believers & non-believers (and no person can be absolutely sure who is who)! The church calendar.

PROTESTANT REFORMATION of 1520 A.D.

Between 100 or so and 1520 AD (maybe up to 1554 AD), the Roman Catholic Church of the Western Roman Empire had pulled away from the Orthodox Christian churches (of the 5 historic patriarchal centers...Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople) and had taken the Bible (the holy writings...the scripture...The Word) from the people, The Word being only available through priests. (I am under the impression that some smaller, independent churches might have histories which are obscure but said to be different). This first "Reformation of 1520 A.D." put The Word back with the people. Some say that the second great reformation of the church will be when the great effort of doing The Great Commission, witnessing and ministry of the gospel, is transferred from the clergy to the much more numerous members of the church body...the people (a process which seems, to me, to be happening now [at least 1980s-2005 & beyond], especially by way of the internet). This transfer will begin to have enormous positive effect when enough of Christendom comes to realize that the fundamental of the Gospel is enlivened by a true realization that Jesus was pointing out that The Way is about cultivating positive, non-hurtful, non-exclusionary relationships (right relationships..."righteous" behavior)!

FURTHER ESSENCE OF REFORMED/PROTESTANT CHRISTIANITY:

  1. Salvation is granted solely by grace through faith: (Ephesians 2:8-9) [An open offer to every human; no secret knowledge needed]. Righteousness is conferred by God's love and grace through Jesus, who meets God's standard for us...we come to belief in Jesus and His substitution for us by faith which God gave us.
  2. The priesthood of the believer: Jesus is the only intercessor we need...He is the always-available great High Priest (we do not need preachers, priests, etc.; and each person, through Jesus, can approach God [see I Timothy 2:5]). Our righteousness and salvation is justified as a gift from God through our true faith in Jesus (Romans 3). (Some say that this and #3 are the essence of the first Protestant Reformation.) This does not mean that Priests, Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and Sunday School teachers are not important.
  3. The Word (holy scripture...the Bible) is for the reading by all human-kind: but THE TRUTH of The Word can only be understood by the born-again, new-creation Jesus believer through each such true Christian's internal, personal teacher, the Holy Spirit, revealing the message of the Word. We do not need priests, preachers, for interpretation (John 14 thru 16). In fact, The Word is actually deliberately closed (I Cor. 2:14) [check more] and the Christian Way not truly understandable to any but those who are thusly indwelt by the Holy Spirit (even the 12 apostolic disciples were unable to understand until the Holy Spirit came unto them after [John 14:26] the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus). The Bible (The Word) is to be available to all true believers, not just to the clergy in any secret or high language of the clergy....Martin Luther's great point of "Sola Scriptura". This is to be the fundamental source (none other to supersede) for all that humans can know about God...THE fundamental source of revelation about God.

Protestant Fundamentals Republished and "Hashed Out" in 1909-1918:

The "fundamentalist movement", reacting against a theologically increasingly liberal compromise from the actual testimony of the Bible, took its name from the publication of a series of scholarly booklets in 1909 which set out the interdenominational, essential, traditional Biblical doctrinal beliefs of Christians. By 1918, the positions were clear between liberals and fundamentalists, fundamentalists declaring:

  • The divine inspiration and infallibility [the TRUTH] of the original autographs [none exist] of Scripture (The Word...the Bible...in writing).
  • The deity of Jesus Christ [deity requires a virgin birth, avoiding man's sin inheritance which is passed through the male, starting in Adam].
  • The virgin birth and miracles of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus Christ's substitutionary and atoning death (dying in place of the sinner, taking on and paying the penalty for the past, present, and future sins of all humans) for all of mankind. SALVATION IS BY CHRIST!
  • Jesus Christ's physical resurrection from the grave.
  • The second coming of Jesus Christ in the future.

And, being a Protestant Christian:

Through our belief in Jesus Christ and living of Holy-Spirit-enabled lives abiding/remaining in Him, we must be saved on earth and for eternity. Jesus was sent:

  • to redeem us (buy all of us back... all of us past, present, and future human sinners) from our sin,
  • to satisfy God's white-hot anger at man for his sinful/disobedient nature (Jesus as a propitiation),
  • to justify us (make us "just-as-if-I-never-sinned"; Jesus straightens out our relationship with God by cloaking the believer in the righteousness of Jesus) before God,
  • to be within us the righteousness (be "right" with God) that humans cannot do on their own,
  • and to be sufficient (on whom we can totally depend for all needs) in all things.
  • Then, in this Christian faith, we journey a life of evolving sanctification (eternally saved and, while living on earth, becoming more and more Christ-like...growing in our ability to live rightly...righteously...in right relationships).

The human mind, heart, and psychology are treacherous in how we can fool ourselves. As evidence of a saved life, born again, you are highly likely to show...manifest increased goodness, better character, right relationship living, and good works...a real change. Reflecting our new status and as acts of repenting of our sins, we are urged to do (good) works (Acts 26:20). Humans can fool themselves by acting good, being involved, and doing good works in subconscious hopes of seeming to truly be a believer. The real way, though, is to wrestle self-will and self-centeredness and self-consciousness out of the way, and read and seek advice and answers so as to step into Christian participation and service in order to truly believe (and get into that active relationship with God). And the good inevitably then flows forth. At the end of time, at judgment day, only God will have known who truly believed and who faked it (consciously or unconsciously) or just didn't reach the state of true belief (see Jesus' parable of the wheat and tares/weeds, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).

Your belief (not faked or insufficient) or non-belief is the key to your earthly Christian salvation. God's wrathful judgment (Old Testament) prior to Christ was awesome and may come upon those not deemed "believers" at the end times. The true Jesus believers meet Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Jesus will sort out which, if any, might otherwise qualify as He judges every other human at the "Great White Throne Judgment" (Rev. 20:11-15). Could you be fooling yourself? God's love is real and available and His power promised to be bridled toward those who believe in His only son Jesus. The Gospel, the "good news", is that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah...the Savior...Acts 5:42). God has made no such clear cut and comprehensive salvation guarantee to non-believers. Fear God (take Him seriously and know what He could do except for His promises through Jesus). Consider where you want to spend eternity; lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven). Since eternity goes on forever, isn't reaching and/or obtaining salvation status the epitome of success (as compared to a rich income for 20 years or the Presidency of the USA for 4 years) and the life leading to salvation the truly successful life? Those whose names are written in the book of life (Rev. 20:12 and 15) will, for sure (guaranteed), obtain the full eternal-salvation life in Heaven with the Trinitarian Jehovah God!

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DENOMINATIONS

Don't lose sight of the prime importance of the most basic point of faith and belief uniting all Christians: Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth; God as our Savior, our Shepherd) is Lord (boss, master) & Savior. 

SALVATION IS BY CHRIST! The various denominations might squabble about certain doctrinal points but not about the provision of salvation by Jesus. All such believers are Christians and part of the Universal Church initiated at Pentecost, the living body of Christ, on this belief alone. Every person who claims to be such a Christian stands on this same Rock. That "body of Christ" consists of all who have the unending internal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a phenomenon which began with the Pentecost experience following the crucifixion of Jesus. Keep strongly in mind the following point: the Church...this Universal Church...as Jesus established it, is not an institution. It is not bricks & mortar. But it is a people in whom He lives and through whom He works.

But, from a human reality standpoint, how we segregate ourselves out, otherwise, has largely to do with our family of birth origin as to Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant; and, if Protestant, into which of the denominations we worship.

I'm not "for" or "against" any denomination. I don't think that Jesus wanted a divided church (major Christian churches & denominations) but surely knew that we humans would always "divide up" over issues...even (especially) as to something as important as belief & faith.

An encyclopedic study by David B. Barrett, updated 2001 edition, counts 33,830 denominations in the world. Varying languages and customs of different countries, interpretations of proper methods of worship, proper meanings of scripture, proper organization of the local church body, and proper living of the Christian life tend to be the differing styles and beliefs of the various Protestant church denominations (by 2012, there may be 41,000). For the Protestant: firstly, you are a Christian; secondly, you may be Protestant or Reformed; thirdly you are a certain denomination (Baptist, Methodist, etc.); fourthly, you are some subdivision of a denomination (Independent Baptist); and fifthly, you are a member of a particular local church body having a particular street address (maybe even so in a non-denominational way). Technically, some of our present-day denominations were born by the Protestant Reformation; others claim to trace their history back independently of Roman Catholicism but are still generally included as "Protestant" because their beliefs melded well into, and influenced, Protestantism. Here is an on-line history (project of UNC @ Chapel Hill) of Baptists by N. H. Pius, D. D., published in 1911.

The Protestant denominations  differ because they involve imperfect, unequal humans (Mark 10:18; Romans 3:12 "...there is none good, no not one...")...(on-line encyclopedia listing of the denominations):

  • Christ is thought possibly to arrange members into different churches (bodies of believers) [about churches]; and,
  • different people are touched differently by Christianity; and
  • different groups emphasize different doctrines to greater or lesser degrees based on different points in Scripture and different life experiences and views. 

The Mennonites stress living the simple Christian life. Adventists stress the ten commandments. And Independent Baptists stress the independence of each local church and the advisability of studying the King James translation of the Bible. A thought: of all people who love music, very few love all music. Why must we be split and "fight" among ourselves or look down on other congregations of born-again believers? After all, we are all "parts" of that greater Body of Believers, the worldwide Universal Christian Church. Who are they who sit in judgment on other believers' convictions or levels of conviction on matters of opinion, correct doctrine, doctrinal emphasis, or conviction? Can't groups follow Jesus in different ways without rancor and anger between groups? Can't we recognize our differences in light of Jesus' question (Luke 10:26: "And He said to him, 'What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?'") and be different without "downing" or belittling each other?

Read your Bible closely and try to imagine all true believers around the entire world being able to identically interpret & prioritize the very large number of beliefs, rules, commands, and duties. The Old Testament, alone, is said to contain 613 commands for God's people (the pomegranate has about 613 seeds, usually, and was...therefore...considered a divine fruit). To even more emphasize  the difficulty of agreeing on priorities, how many families do you know in which the husband and wife are in perfect agreement on priorities? Few.

Remember: no book or issue in human history has been more carefully studied and strongly debated throughout the past 2000 years than The Bible and religion...and done so by the most intelligent and informed humans of each of the 100 or so generations of mankind in that period of history! Writing somewhat in this vein about the many different church bodies, George Will notes, "And that fact satisfies those Christians who regard the continuing vitality of Christianity's divisions as evidence of spiritual vigor: you cannot split rotten wood." ("Presence of Divine still inspires awe in Americans", The State [newspaper], 23 Dec. 1999).

Sadly, in a continuing reflection of man's fallen nature, Christians focus incredible emotional and physical energy (as well as financial resources) on emphasizing, dwelling upon, and infighting our differences rather than primarily emphasizing our central brotherhood in the Body of Christ (how human we are!; how fallen is mankind!). This is some of the residue of our natural nature (the natural, fallen, man) coming out in our lives. It should constantly remind us of the distracting quality and destructiveness of incompletely changed/sanctified human nature. How lost we are without our Savior; how misguided we can be even during our attempts to walk with Him! What a tarnished "light" and contaminated "salt" this is to The World. We need to get in touch with the differences that each believer possesses...brings into the local church...(in personality, spiritual gifts, talents, love languages, learning styles, etc.) [see YLCF website] that give such breadth & depth to the church (a source of great potential...not a reason to bicker).

We Christians have been killers back in history [here]. But, overall in modern & current times, how much damage do Christians do for the cause of Christ when they condemn & criticize other branches or denominations of Christianity? As my friend, Rev. Gary Frazier pointed out in May 2007, why must modern Christians of the USA publicly backbite and almost curse each other over issues BEYOND the questions of: (1) does your church worship God through Jesus?...(2) does your church seek to lift up the name of Jesus as Savior of the World?...and (3) is The Word of God the ultimate tool for education about the Faith?

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THE ELECT (those who come to Jesus) :

The word, elect, in the Bible may refer to one of at least 5 individuals or groups. As to eternal salvation & being "elected" for "going to Heaven": explanations must not violate or add to the fundamental that your eternal after-life salvation is based on (1) the crucified Christ and (2) the grace of God alone. I would soberly add to those who would be greatly concerned with exclusivity: God is sovereign and can make exceptions and save anyone He chooses! But could this chosen group be way larger than most suppose (see below)? As to eternity...might it include salvation of ALL humans?

Forgiveness & redemption: In the Old Testament of the Bible, God required that man atone for sins by the sacrificial shedding of the blood of bulls, goats, or birds. The Gospel..."the good news" of the New Testament of the Bible...is that (unique to Christianity, alone...a thoroughly unique religion): God so loved man that He sent His only Son as the perfect, first-fruits, substitutionary (substituting for each & every human being) blood sacrifice on the cross to make things right ( to atone) between God and Mankind. God, in the person of the Son and Messiah (Christ), Jesus, shed His blood (was slain/sacrificed) on the cross for all the sins of all mankind. In doing so, Jesus obtained a general pardon for all of mankind (which most of Christendom believes must be individually & personally claimed (realized) in order to be made personally effective). [By way of "the doctrine of the Trinitarian God", God...in a way...came Himself. He allowed Himself to be sacrificed!!!] This, therefore, has already accomplished atonement, forgiveness, and remission for the sins for ALL past, present, & future humans.

So, why isn't The Gospel that ALL humans go to Heaven? God, in essence (this is not a real quotation), says, "I forgive you, but why should I have you with Me for eternity?" That is, "paying the price" did not  address individual-human "justification" (or did it?). There is no biblical indication (or is there?) that all persons...all humans who have ever lived...are already justified & will go to Heaven (Mathew 7:13-14...narrow gate). After truly reading the Bible, do you find any evidence that anyone can truly count on being able to be good enough (not just forgiven of sins) for their "goodness" to justify salvation for eternity on one's own merit?

Jesus, Himself, warns that only a relative few (of the future billions) will find & enter through (come to belief) that narrow gate (Matthew 7:13). And He will have to tell many, in the end, who thought...or had been lead to believe...that they had been saved: "I never knew you..." (Matthew 7:21-23).

Justification by coming to belief: After the fall of Adam, mankind plunged into sin. Then God chose Israel to receive His revelation about Himself & The Law and to reveal the inadequacy of The Law to save sinners. Humans with free will choice are constantly caught in the "do it!" vs. "don't do it" tensions of spiritual warfare. The forces of Satan beckon toward "badness", and the forces of God beckon toward "goodness". Therefore, though forgiven of sins & having permission to enter Heaven, people...all of whom are undeserving...need justification (how do you indicate & justify your desire to reside with God in Heaven?) in order to get eternal life in Heaven with God. And people need a force or person to get them into a justified state or position. They need a justifying Savior (or has that already been done?)...one to help a person to desire.

Why would anyone want to bank on any vague hope of another "way" to the eternal heavenly life here-after when God has already guaranteed The Way that justifies? And, that Way is open to anyone and is not a burdensome way (I John 5:1-5). God, in essence (this is not a real quotation), says, "I've been willing to forget all you have done against me and what shortcomings you possess [I've invoked divine amnesia] if you'll just believe that, for the sake of Jesus, I am filled with grace & love for you enough to have made the sacrifice [of Jesus] that I made. This is The Way to your personal justification of eternal residence with Me in Heaven." [It is surely The Way to a saved life on earth!] This justification...by the grace of God...has been provided as a free gift from God, AND so is the faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) to "come to belief" & obtain that justified status as a free gift! Jesus is both the author and perfecter of an elect person's faith (Hebrews 12:2) for staking out this belief & demonstrating desire.

James notes (James 2:20-24) that faith without deeds ("works") is useless. This is because it is not real God-gifted faith, and only real God-gifted faith leads to real belief & real justification and the incoming of the Holy Spirit who starts the sanctification process & changes us into doers of good deeds). Justification: faith is put by Jesus into a person & after such, one comes to belief & desires God. And the doing of deeds (on earth) is the outward reflection of that "coming to belief".

From being an "elect" person to "coming to belief" is a  mysterious transformation at varying pace in different people. Coming to belief transforms that general Gift from God into becoming individually effective to eternal salvation in Heaven (or does it have its effect in an "earthly" way?). Coming to "belief"...in a way containing some mystery...must be one of the following...or some sort of mix within an "elect" person...of: 

  • quit resisting & "get it": consciously or unconsciously (1) quitting one's resistance to the call (implanting of faith) of Jesus, and (2) realizing (faith leading to belief being activated, actualized, implanted, instilled, or deposited unconsciously or subconsciously into the elect one) the free love-&-grace-given gift of salvation; leading to,
  • believe: choose (John 7:17) and do (John 6:29)...consciously believing about Jesus and his atoning & Savior status; and,
  • make it for you (personal): consciously believing as to yourself & claiming the free love & grace-given gift of salvation; inviting Jesus (in the person of the Holy Spirit) into one's heart and/or,
  • follow: consciously or unconsciously choosing to follow The Way of Jesus (God even tells His chosen in other contexts that they must choose)...that they must enter the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13). On trulycoming to belief, a conversion actually takes place as the Holy Spirit comes in to seal, mark, & reside in the new convert...who then is a chosen child of God & member of THE CHURCH and The Kingdom of God.

Or, could this coming to belief...the above various phrases suggesting from "none" to "some" exercise of free will...actually happen by way of different patterns or sequences of the above God-qualified ways for different people to come to belief, all having some scriptural support? Throughout human experience, has there actually been a mysterious variety on a spectrum of none to some free will component? [closing of minds of Jews]

Election: But, prior to atonement and justification, there was "election". From the very beginning prior to creation, God has determined/known who will end up in Heaven with Him for eternity. Those to be eternally Heaven-residing humans are called "the elect" (or, does this really refer to the earthly segment of existence?)...such an individual being "an elect", an "elect one", or an "elect person". The process of becoming an "elect one" is called "election". Somehow, God knew/knows/determined who would be with Him eternally in Heaven...He knew those who would/will be "saved". Peter says...does he?...that election was by God's foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:1-2&9).

Eternal salvation: derives from our sovereign God, by grace alone, because of:

  • a person's election for salvation (earthly or Heavenly?);
  • the redemption provided by Jesus to gain the sin pardon...His finished work;
  • the divine drawing (John 6:44) of the "elect" to God (earthly or Heavenly?);
  • the conversion (coming to belief) of the "elect" to a state of "belief" [see above]; and 
  • then the incoming indwelling (spiritual baptism) of that elect one by the Holy Spirit (the power source) into the elect one's spirit & Jesus' implanting of the faith (Acts 3:16; Hebrews 12:2) into the one becoming saved. (Is that faith implanted before or after one "realizes"/"chooses"? Is it "activated faith" when implanted or does "realizing"/"choosing" activate the faith?)
  • then the works of the fruits of that indwelling Holy Spirit.

And, guess what! God chose (elected) each saved person (Mark 13:20) by foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:1-2&9) before creation actually occurred (Ephesians 1:4)! Did you know that the Bible never records Jesus telling a sinner that, "You are going to hell!"?

No man seeks God, God seeks you: God has indicated that no human actually seeks Him on his own (Romans 3:11); God chooses His own [citations] as noted, below. It is God who saves. It is God who enables (draws) a person to come to Him (John 6:65). So, if you sense that you have any interest at all (either positive or negative) in spiritual matters, that sensation may well be evidence that God is calling to you ("drawing" you), as noted below. God has chosen (set apart...elected) by foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:1-2) already as to all who will, by the exercise of their free will, say "yes"...quit resisting...and all who will say "no" & continue to resist. His desire is that all be saved...but He knows that all won't do what needs to be done (see above). He would love it if all elect ones would say "yes" early in life...but knows that they won't. With God having that foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:1-2&9) and being willing to "let it happen" either way, one can say (and the Bible says so, Ephesians 1:5) that the outcome has been predestined (set aside as fact)...almost like "prophecy fulfilled". But there is a real chance that there is some REAL interpretation mystery about when Scripture refers to Heaven-residing "eternal" life and earth-residing "eternal" life...so that ALL humans might be Heaven bound.

It, therefore, seems to me to be His will that your choice...whichever way...be a fulfillment of His will (God's sovereignty is still intact). "Chose you this day whom you will serve..." (Joshua 24:15). He knows what you will do, and He is willing for that choice to be a fulfillment of His will. We call the "yes choosers" (believers) "THE ELECT" (the "who-so-ever will" believe), and the "no" people are "who-so-ever won't believe" (check the above link, because there are different groups of "The Elect"). But, I can't rule out that "election" is just simply by divine determination or input (rather than divine foreknowledge)...especially in view of Romans 9 (Romans 9:14-16 & 18, especially). Maybe God elected, in the final analysis, everyone. "Election" is a spiritual mystery!

SOME FORM OF FREE WILL is a factor: The exercising of "free will" by a person neither automatically constitutes "boasting" nor serves as a basis for boasting (at least in the context of becoming a Jesus believer). In that I favor believing that "election" is by divine foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:1-2), then free will is a pivotal factor in "coming to belief". The strongest evidence for "free will" (free agency) is the very implication of it relative to the issue of temptation and sin. Without a dominant and divinely allowed "free will", there could be no choice about sin (to "do" the sin or not do it) or love or anything else! Without free will, love could not be freely expressed and come across as true love! [strongly implying free will, see: Genesis 2:16-17 and 4:7; Deuteronomy 11:27; Joshua 24:15; I Kings 18:21; Proverbs 1:29-30; Luke 16:19-31; and Romans 10:14] Jesus died between two thieves, only one of whom asked to be with Him in eternity (and Jesus did not turn to the other thief and say, "And if you don't also quickly ask, you will go to Hell!" Why didn't Jesus tug at the other thief?)!

I speculate that God must want to see the salvation process played out in each person; and I also speculate that part of the duty of the Holy Spirit is to capitalize on an individual's life events involving "the elect" in such a way as to urge them or twinge their spirits toward receptivity of, or hearing of (having "ears to hear"), the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Jesus calls The Elect (John 10:16) (mostly through the actions and words of those who lift Jesus up?). One way or another, sooner or later, an "elect" person will "listen" (I John 4:6). And someone, therefore, has to "tell"; then the elect person must hear & (having been divinely given the faith to believe) believe. The people asked Jesus, "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 [Jesus]." (John 6:28-29) Similarly, the command (Hebrews 5:9) to obey Jesus is thought by me to be addressing the same thing...believe. People "tell"..."telling" equals evangelizing in all of the possible evangelistic ways.

Recap: No human will seek God (Romans 3:10...11...12) on his own! Anyone inquiring of a god may be being stimulated or drawn by the Holy Spirit. Even being an Elect (a chosen one), no one goes in the direction of God until "drawn" by God (John 6:44). Yet, having been chosen (and through God's grace & sovereignty...in view of His foreknowledge), the saved person's free will is going to chose "yes", as follows.

Why believers on earth:  When a person "comes to belief", why would Jesus leave that "elect" person here on earth? Couldn't he/she praise, worship, and fellowship better in heaven with heaven-residing, glorified bodies and voices? Yes, but we have an implicit, basic function still on earth: we must "tell" others the good news.

Believers must tell: "Telling" is what begins to happen when a person gives his or her life to Christ. He Gospel-spreading or evangelizing (public or quietly private) Christian is an ambassador for Christ (II Corinthians 5:17-21) whose job is to tell the gospel story (the good news) to any who will listen. It's NOT that Christian's job (he/she has no power to do so) to actually bring the non-believer into Christianity (into "belief"). That action/result rests on whether the individual IS one of the elect ones who will say "yes". We may agonize...we don't know/have fore-knowledge...as we participate, hoping that the person will "decide" to become a "believer" AND will act on the convicting/convincing influence of the Holy Spirit. It is Jesus' job (see John 6:65 about God enabling & see John 6:37 about "...all that the Father gives me will come to me,...", and see  John 10:25-30 about the sheep the Father has given to Jesus) to bring in The Elect through the work of the Holy Spirit and the evangelizing activities of The Church Universal via The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). When we believers speak of "winning a soul for Jesus", it only means that we merely participated with Jesus. We do so by being willing, available, bold, persuasive, and prayerful as Jesus does His work through us...using us to "tell", either directly or by example. In the vast majority of cases, it is God's will that each person make a choice; and, it seems to me, His will is fulfilled by whichever the choice..."yes" or "no". Again, though: does this relate to just earthly salvation or not [here]?

Jesus' job: I know that Jesus can not fail at His job...the bringing in of those who God already knows will say "yes" (that God has given to Jesus...John 6:37)...the ones that Jesus (always in line with the will of God), therefore, chooses (Matthew 11:27). Jesus is the author of a person's faith (Hebrews 12:2)...the Implanter of the willingness and faith into a God-enabled person (John 6:65) to (1) say "yes" and (2) to faithfully be a Jesus follower...having begun a new work which He will carry to completion (Philippians 1:6). So, in a very real sense, THE TRUTH is that eternal salvation is pre-ordained (God already knows who will say "yes") and non-optional (the fore-knowledge-like choosing and enabling by God, the shepherding of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit will succeed) through the sovereign will of God and the effectiveness of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As such, election is divinely determined...the number of those who will be saved is fixed.  But, make no mistake about it: the individual must make the choice as part of the mystery of the perfect interaction of the attributes of God and the various functions of the persons of the Trinity with the individual person and his/her level of free will expressed as a component of his/her personhood! And it might apply to all humans...this is worth serious thought (but note, above, the guaranteed Way).

The Bible indicates a few exceptions to free-will choice. The story of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19) does not reflect any definite "yes" decision on Paul's part...he was just dramatically converted into a Jesus follower and believer! The demon-possessed man seems to have been converted (Mark 5:1-20) against his very desire. So, in exceptional situations, the Bible record clearly indicates that conversion can be done without free will choice. And, I just don't know how God will have Jesus bring in His original elect group, the people of the nation of Israel (nor do I know who those persons actually were/are...see Romans 9 [especially 9:6-9 & 9:14-16]). But Jesus died for ALL!

Conversion timing: I wonder if it is God's will that the timing of when "yes" is said might be the real "wild card" variable related to free will and how hard-headed each individual is...or even (not even being hard-headed) just being satisfied (through a relative lack of interest) at some stage of being "drawn" toward belief...not yet a new creation...& yet thinking/considering oneself a true believer?

The timing can make all the difference between a long earthly life of fulfillment and service or only a very short period on earth of the joy of the new birth. I've never known a new or revitalized believer who did not deeply regret not having said "yes" sooner! It is the evangelizing Christian's blessing to be allowed to be part of that effort and that moment when a non-believer becomes a believer...that moment of transformation from just existing into truly living! As illustrated by the case of Zacchaeus the tax collector, another human can never guess who some of the Elect actually are. Yet Jesus brings them in and accepts the Elect just as they are: a "yes" is just as effective for a person currently caught up in crime and perversion as it is for a person currently living the life of a good person with very high values, standards, and morals (see Luke 19:1-10).

As to justification for eternity (if true), a "yes" one minute before death is just as effective as a "yes" at age 12 in a man now 96 years old. The latter will, however, have lived a life of assurance, contribution, and Christian servant-hood...a "fulfilled and joyful" life filled with peace while on earth. The former...hard-headed, stiff-necked, and self-centered...will have wasted the life on earth.

Calvinism: For your information...and I have not seriously dug into this..."Calvinism" (the system of theological thinking which grew out of Calvin's writings) is said to take the position that God has actually ordained each human to heaven or hell (double predestination), there being no free will choice, grace simply having been granted to certain persons through an unknown & mysterious process of the inscrutable mind of God. I hear that this derives out of Calvin's focus on the primacy and centrality of the sovereignty of God. But "Calvinism" is said to have gone beyond what John Calvin actually thought and said. Were this a correct interpretation, it would be a sort of pre-existent fatalism; what would be the reason for The Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20? Why would God be said to not be willing that any should be lost (Matthew 18:14 & II Peter 3:9)? Could there be inscrutable, divine thinking which no man could grasp that would make such humanly illogical contradictions become reasonable?

In Summary: In effect, God chose (as explained, above) the individuals of "The Elect" before creation. It is His desire that all persons achieve eternal salvation, but it is a satisfaction of His "will" that the elect say "yes" (come to belief) and all others...those who resist...say "no" (don't come to belief). Whether a person says "yes" or "no" has to do with an inscrutable admixture of:

  • a person's having been chosen by God.
  • the drawing & evangelizing influences of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the "body of believers" of the Church.
  • and a person's accepting or resisting through "free will".

Finally: I believe that scripture having to do with "election" is not crystal-clear and precisely defining of how election works. It will always contain mystery...the mind of God can not be fully scrutinized (Isaiah 55:8)...because we can only know about aspects and things and details to the point that God has chosen to reveal them. Election is a mystery! While serious and well-meaning thinkers will continue to speculate on, and lobby for, different routes to eternal life with God, God's WORD [the Bible] is clear that:
 

  • God has a love for mankind which is (by human standards) lavish, wasteful, extreme, unjust, unreasonable, and undeserved (Luke 15:11-32...remember the prodigal son [discussion]).
  • there most assuredly is a guaranteed "Way" to eternal life with God.

Can you believe it?...do you "get it"?...can you get a grip on the love that Jesus must have for me or you in order to die in my/your place? [did you see Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of The Christ?] Will I/you value that love or treat it casually, indifferently, lightly...no study, no worship, no prayer, no fellowship, no service/work, and no "telling" about the good news and love of Jesus? All of the above indicates that we do not "work" to be saved. It is wrong to think: "We have to get it right because our eternal salvation is at stake!" What could be more "works based" than that? "Works" flow from the fruits of (the indwelling" Holy Spirit. Those who are blessed to appreciate the VALUE of their election to salvation will want to work...do "works"...BECAUSE they are saved!!!

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THE GREATEST EVENT:

THE GREATEST EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY was the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. "Eternal salvation" for a person is (1) their time on earth plus (2) all of the rest of eternity thereafter! The original son of God was Adam (Luke 3:38), having been fashioned directly by God. Sin entered the human race through this "first" Adam. And there has never since been a natural human who could be pure...perfectly sin-free for an entire lifetime: the requirement to dwell for eternity in Heaven with the Holy and perfectly pure Almighty God! Jesus...the "second Adam"...brought God to man, being God as a man. Jesus lived as The Word, as God as the Son, yet (as Jesus often said) the Son of Man (born of a human). But, He, too, is the sin-free obedient son of God. Like the prodigal son, every human has "left" God and become lost. All of past, current, and future mankind are each and every single one sinners. And Jesus was sent as the true Savior to die, being the only absolutely blemish-free, perfect representative of the human race qualifying as an acceptable, sacrificial trade-off to nullify past, present, and future sin (to redeem & pay the atonement price for all humans). In all those who will believe in Jesus (by this true belief, you must be saved...and be presented righteous before God), Jesus provides the justification for eternal life in Heaven with God (if justification is truly required...check here). Jesus substituted for all of sinful mankind and won (gained) a general pardon...Jesus paid the "sin debt" in full, for all of mankind, and for all time! The only "cost" for this eternal salvation of your soul is the cost of your sin. Jesus has already paid that debt. We are all sinners saved by the grace of God through Jesus. The only "catch" (if there is one...check here)? YOU have to prayerfully tell Jesus that you need Him and the gift of his debt payment. YOU have to take the ACTION of accepting his guarantee of forgiveness and eternal salvation! YOU must actually "pick up" that "get out of jail free" ticket, yourself...you must say "yes". Doing this causes "justification".  Don't worry about The Crusades or the hypocrites...what does that have to do with YOU and Jesus? The very moment that you truly accept your share of that general pardon & accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, you are instantly indwelt by the Holy Spirit and immediately become a new creature...a new creation. Your "position" as one of Jesus' own makes you holy and blameless in God's sight, making you instantly back into a "right relationship", a saint qualified for Heaven (or did Jesus' death already do this?)! Whatever the answer to the mystery of salvation, you don't need a religion, you need a Savior...Jesus!!!

The Lost:

"The lost" are those who (1) face life on earth without the indwelling Holy Spirit & who (2) many think will face the Great White Throne Judgment without the divine advocate, Jesus the Messiah. If you are lost, there is no sin or sinful life too bad for Jesus to fix. Jesus' followers are ALL sinners saved by grace! Will you have to give up cultures or interest groups or jobs if you become a Jesus believer & follower? No! Must you join a church? No! Note these types of believer groups HERE. Elsewhere, I have made note that children (those too young to "know") seem to have a Jesus-protected status. And, Jesus alludes (John 9:41) to a special status for those who are innocently "blind" to The Truth and are, therefore not guilty of sin (would this cover those who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel?). And God is still sovereign (Romans 9:6-9 & 14-16).

!!!***WHAT ABOUT YOU?***!!!

WHAT IF, RIGHT NOW, YOU JUST REALIZED THAT YOU ARE NOT GUARANTEED SAVED...not a believer with "saving belief"...are one who has not "come to belief"? Or, having previously thought that you were saved, you have become unsure...now lacking a true state of assurance? Look here:

SINNER'S PRAYER; PLAN OF SALVATION:


Get down on your knees and begin a prayer to God Almighty...along these lines:

  • Approach God: "Father, I sense the need for change and ask, through your son, Jesus Christ, that my prayer be heard..."
  • KNOW THAT GOD LOVES YOU: "I've heard that you, the greatest being in all the universe, love me; And I want to believe it..."
  • Confess your sin: "I know that I am not perfect and worthy on my own; I've either made a mess of my life or find my life incomplete. I'm maybe filthy and awful...but I've heard that you'll accept me just as I am! I must be a sinner; I've heard that sin separates me from you, and I don't want that. I believe I am a sinner and confess my sinfulness..."
  • Admit God's gift: "I can't be perfectly good all the time; I've heard how you sent your son Jesus to die and pay the sacrifice for sin and take away my sin; I want to acknowledge and believe that God did this for me...gave me this free gift...I know that, all by myself, I could not make things right between me and you: I need a savior."
  • Accept God's Love, Grace and Gift: "I accept the gift of everlasting and eternal salvation, and I know that I don't deserve it or have any right to it...I accept Jesus as my savior."
  • Call on the Lord, NOW: "Dear God, please have mercy upon me because I know I'm a sinner. Please forgive me of all my sins. I know Jesus died on the cross for me, and I know that it's His blood that washes my sins away. I know he was buried and that you raised Him on the third day. Now, in the name of Jesus, will you please come live in my heart as the Holy Spirit and save my soul. With your help I will be as true to Jesus as He will help me to be for the rest of my days. Thank you for saving me! I praise you and thank you in Jesus' name, Amen."
  • What you get: You get the most thorough and complete eternal Salvation (1)the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to help you discern the path on earth toward "good" and away from "bad/evil"; and (2) this eternal personally indwelling Holy Spirit to mediate and effect a perfect afterlife communion between you and the deepest love of the Almighty God of true (agape)love. AND, while on earth in this life, you get (3) the eternal benefit of Jesus' love (a personal Divine perfect friend and One who loves you with the deepest and most genuine & authentic & dependable love that is possible in the entire universe!).


For an excellent graphical and step-by-step portrayal of the decision to accept the precious gift of Jesus, one used to be able to go to a seminary page (it had courtesy of NOBTS)....and for a graphic of the problem that is thereby solved, check this out, too! Coming to belief in Jesus guarantees the full span (depth and breadth) of eternal salvation & on into Heaven (it also may be that Jesus got everyone headed there anyhow)...whether Holy Spirit indwelt or not, HERE.

To read the entire several pages you are now on from the beginning, click here. To review, on this website, the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus, check this out.

***If you just made a prayer commitment to trust and believe in Jesus,
please
 e-mail me and tell me about it!***

***give me your comments about this page***

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(begun in 1996, posted July 1998; latest partial adjusting, 5 September 2016)