Friday, September 25, 2009

Assured of Salvation in Christ

I believe God saves and perseveres in saving all those who believe in Christ. As we baptists like to say, "Once a person is saved, they are always saved." They are not saved because of their saving actions. Those who are saved are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.

What are we saved from? We are saved from a life separated from God. We are saved from an eternity separated from God. We are saved from the power of sin so that we are able to know God and follow His lead. We are saved from a life that lives for temporal things.

We are not only saved from terrible things. We are also saved for wonderful things. We are saved for God's glory. We are saved for a life of joy, peace, and significance. We are saved for a life of meaning.

Salvation is more than a concept. Salvation is an experience. It is something that happens. Assurance of salvation is more than a concept. Our assurance of our eternal hope in Christ is an experience. It is something that we can examine. Our assurance of salvation is something we can assess the veracity of.

We are told in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?"

I am extremely concerned about a person I know right now who claims to be saved. This person claims Christ, but is not living for Christ.

What we believe ultimately defines who we are. Who we are will determine what we do. If we consistently do ungodly things fully aware that we are disobeying God unconcerned about the way we are dishonoring God, it is because we do not genuinely believe. If we believe in the Lordship of Jesus, we are slaves to Him. If we are His slaves, we obey our master. Any continual blatant disobedience to the Lord communicates what a person believes and who they are.

I do not like to cause people to doubt their salvation. That is what the devil does. What I do feel compelled to do, is to encourage people to test their faith and make sure it is authentic so they are assured of what they believe and who they are in Christ. They will know based on what they are doing in obedience to Him.

John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parents Beware

Being a parent is hard work. If it isn’t hard, you probably are not doing it right. Unfortunately, none of us can do it completely correctly, but most of us can do it better than we are.

I think the mistake a lot of parents make, and that I make, is evaluating my kid's upbringing based on what I see them doing at any given moment. That sounds strange I know, but stick with me here. Why is that not a good indicator, you might ask. Well, simply stated, kids change. Their moods change. Their lives change. Consistency is not a word that goes with kids. Their phases and needs are radically different year by year and season by season.

So what is an accurate means of accounting for our parenting? I believe the best thing we provide for our children is a Biblical value-centered life that disciplines and encourages consistently. We need to evaluate our kid’s upbringing based on the principles we govern and lead them with. As kids change, so will our approach, but the principles and values we rely on to raise our kids must never change.

The issue in parenting is the parent. The child is a product of what we do and of what the Lord has for each child. Our job, as parents, is to partner with God in raising our children with our Biblical priorities in the hope of our faith in Jesus.

This does not mean we ignore the importance and usefulness of situational leadership as taught in Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” We would do well to hear and live out the fundamental expectations of parents in Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

In 2 Samuel 13 we see successful King David failing as a parent. D.A. Carson speaks to how similar the mistakes the priest Eli made, as a parent (1 Samuel 2:12-36) and the mistakes King David made with his children. Each of these dads chose to ignore their responsibilities with their children and their children paid the price for it. From birth on through adulthood, Eli and David provided poor leadership in their kid’s lives and refused to discipline them in the love and hope of the Lord.

Carson writes about David’s parenting.
The pattern of David’s life, juxtaposed with Eli’s but a few short chapters earlier, illustrates the kinds of disasters that befall families where the father, however loving, indulgent, godly, and heroic he may be, never holds his children to account, never disciplining them when they go astray. David’s failure with Amnon and Absalom was not a first: it was the continuation of a moral and familial failure begun when the boys were in diapers.

We must serve our children by living principled lives that lift our children’s expectations of themselves. We must discipline them, when they do not rise to the level of God’s desires and demands of them. We must remember that the child is a result of the parent. If we reverse that principle and make the child rather than the parent the issue, we will chase the wind and give inconsistent guidance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fishing Story

I shared parts of this story by Darrell W. Robinson in the first two services yesterday, but did not mention it at the 11 am service. It is one that is worth having and knowing.

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.
Week after week, month after month, and year after year, these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.
Continually, they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. Further they said, “The fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning.” They loved slogans such as “Fishing is the task of every fisherman.” They sponsored special meetings called “Fishermen’s Campaigns” and “The Month for Fishermen to Fish.” They sponsored costly nationwide and world-wide congresses to discuss fishing and to promote fishing and hear about all the ways of fishing such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and whether any new bait had been discovered.
These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn’t do, however: They didn’t fish.
In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. The board hired staffs and appointed committees and held many meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be thought about. But the staff and committee members did not fish.
Large, elaborate, and expensive training centers were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology, but the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. Year after year, after tedious training, many were graduated and were given fishing licenses. They were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant waters which were filled with fish.
Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. But like the fishermen back home, they never fished. Like the fishermen back home, they engaged in all kinds of other occupations. They built power plants to pump water for fish and tractors to plow new waterways. They made all kinds of equipment to travel here and there to look at fish hatcheries. Some also said that they wanted to be part of the fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment. Others felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. Others felt that simply letting the fish know they were nice, land-loving neighbors and how loving and kind they were was enough.
After one stirring meeting on “The Necessity for Fishing,” one young fellow left the meeting and went fishing. The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. So he quit his fishing in order to have time to tell about the experience to the other fishermen. He was also placed on the Fishermen’s General Board as a person having considerable experience.
Now it’s true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen’s clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen yet never fished. They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the Master who said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?”
Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if, year after year, he never catches a fish? Is one following if he isn’t fishing?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Daily News Column

I've started a weekly column in our local newspaper on Friday. Here was this week's submission.

Practice patience, prayer
Dr. Jason Pettus
Published: September 11, 2009
It is said that timing is everything. I have seen the importance of timing play out in my life and ministry on many occasions. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t hear a story about the impact of perfect timing.

Recently, someone visited their doctor for a regular check-up that they usually do not take the time for. At that visit, their doctor found a mass that would have led to that person’s death had it gone untreated.

A shared story I hear from time to time is about the guy who says he was running late for an appointment or class and happened to run into the girl of his dreams. He pursues her and gets her to marry him.

My favorite story lately was the one about someone who received a job offer and took it and found out that same afternoon they would be losing their current job. That is great timing!

God has designed time with a grand purpose. We read in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that God made the world in such a way that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” And Romans 5:6 teaches us that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Salvation was provided by God at just the right time.

Having heard this, the question I know some of you are asking is, “When is my time?” I imagine many are wondering, “When am I going to get my miracle cure, my needed job or my long-desired love?”

I don’t know the answer to that question for you, but I know God does and I know that you can trust Him to provide for you at just the right time. The best thing you can do is pray.

Now, doesn’t that sound like a nice preacher answer? Pray about it. Indeed! I can hear the groans now. But I will tell you and can testify that prayer works. I believe prayer is the most powerful and most underutilized ability we have. God allows us to speak to Him and request His intervention. Not only does He allow it, He commands it. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to “pray continually.”

There are some who will question the effectiveness of prayer. I spoke with a person this Sunday who has been praying fervently for a practical need to be met in her life. She has done everything in her power to position herself to see this need met, but God has not seen fit for that to happen yet.

She wondered why that was. She wondered if she should even continue to pray. I told her, “Yes, without question you must continue to pray.” Her response was, “Well, it does not seem that God is doing anything.”

I then spent some time helping her understand that even when it doesn’t seem that God is doing much, God is at work. As a matter of fact, there was a day in our world when it seemed that God was doing the least, when in fact God was doing more than we can fully understand.

As Jesus was nailed to the cross, it seemed that God the Father was not doing anything. In the agony of that traumatic event, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) As Jesus died, it seemed that God was doing very little, but in reality God was accomplishing the most important thing in human history. According to 2 Corinthians 5:19, it was when Jesus was dying on the cross “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”

Sometimes, when it seems that God is doing the least, God is in fact doing the most.

There is no telling what God might be up to in your life, but you can rest assured that if you are His child living under His leadership in His love by His grace through your faith, He is up to something. We are told in Philippians 1:6 that we can be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is just a matter of time with God.

Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say ungranted;
Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done;
The work began when first your prayer was uttered,
And God will finish what He has begun.
Though years have passed since then, do not despair;
His glory you shall see, sometime, somewhere.
— Ophelia Adams

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Patriotism a Sin?

Next month I will begin an overview study of 1 and 2 Kings, during my devotional time with God. When I do, I will inevitably come to the same conclusion I do every fall, as I read through this section of redemptive history. I will ask, “Why do these people get away from God? Why would a nation give up God’s blessing? Why would people so versed in God’s blessings: His Word, His Spirit, His Love, etc; why would they abandon God?”

Why indeed? That is the very question we must ask of ourselves in our nation today. D.A. Carson in comment of 1 Corinthians 10 writes about the moral implications of the Old Testament stories and remarks on what they teach us today.
Implicitly, it is all the more shocking if we who have received so much instruction and warning from ages past ignore the wealth of privilege that is ours. In our blindness we sometimes marvel at how some Old Testament figures or groups could so quickly abandon the godly heritage and covenant they received. How much worse if we do so!

A friend of mine asked me why we do a Patriotic Service every year and I explained that I believe it is good and right to give God praise at least once a year for the privilege of being a citizen of a nation where we are free to worship and evangelize. He asked if we sing, “God Bless America.” I told him that we did and he said, “That is syncretism (the combination of different forms of belief or practice ). You shouldn’t sing that song. You should sing a song asking God to bless a people that He raises up for Himself that are under His covenant of grace for the praise of His glory.”

I do not disagree that we should sing and praise God as His people for His glory. We are commanded in Scripture to praise God for this and to seek to gather those God has called to be His own. But we must give praise to God for all the good things He gives and one good thing we have as US citizens is religious freedom and a heritage of Christian Biblical Faith. We are in the process of abandoning that great foundation as a nation. In fact, we are at a crisis point now in our moral direction and spiritual health. We are like the children of Israel during the times of the Kings during an off-again season. We, like them, have gone through many on-again off-again seasons.

I will be praying for our nation, as I study these texts next month. I will be seeking to expand God’s Kingdom in our land and throughout the nations for the rest of my life. I will spend most of my time living as an exile in the US, but I will seek the good of my earthly nation and ask God to bless it.
Jeremiah 29:7 “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

God Won't Let Go

Oh, that every believer believed this. They would worship God in a more honorable way. They would share their hope with greater confidence. They would live with greater peace and joy.

This is truth...

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
John 10:29

Sadly, many believers throughout church history, including many today, have refused to believe that God guarantees their eternal security. Such denial derives from the erroneous conviction that salvation is a cooperative endeavor between people and God. Such reasoning says that an almighty God will not fail to do His part, but that a fallible Christian might fail to do his part.
But belief in what Scripture says about salvation—that it comes from a sovereign God alone—will lead you to the confidence that your salvation is secure. If salvation is all of God, then you can know with certainty that He will not fail to secure it. Anyone who is truly God’s child need never fear losing his citizenship in heaven. And if that describes you, you can surely trust Christ’s words from today’s verse that “no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

MacArthur, John: Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God's Grace. Nashville, Tenn. : J. Countryman, 2001, S. 267