Sunday, November 17, 2013

Who REALLY Teaches a Works-Based Salvation?

I believe strongly and teach that one must have faith and be obedient to God's will to be saved. Does faith save us? Absolutely! But Paul also says in Romans 6:17, "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered." And in Hebrews 5:9, speaking of Jesus, the author says, "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." These are just a few of the many verses that require faith and works.

When other religious folks hear me stressing obedience, they will sometimes respond by saying that I'm preaching a "works-based salvation," as if we can all earn our way to heaven by our obedience...thus nullifying the grace of God.

But who really teaches a "works-based salvation?" It is often the very ones who accuse me of doing so.

You see, when we believe and teach that Christians must totally submit themselves to the will of God to be saved, we're not encouraging a system of meritorious works; we're encouraging humility and dependance upon God. In Hebrews 5 - the verse I cited above - the author uses the example of Christ to teach not only the need for obedience, but the nature of obedience. Consider verses 8-9 together: "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." True obedience is rooted in a heart of humility, not in arrogance or pride.

Along these same lines, Jesus says regarding servants, "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'" (Luke 17:10). No amount of obedience makes us worthy of salvation.

Meanwhile, those who teach that we don't have to obey to be saved - and that we simply have to believe in God and trust His grace - often view friends and family as heaven-bound on the basis that they're "such good people." When someone like myself points out their lack of obedience to God's expressed will, someone responds by listing the person's good if those good qualities and religious habits merit them salvation. A person may not have been all that spiritually-minded, but because they prayed the "sinner's prayer" so many years ago and had some positive attribute (i.e. honesty, a benevolent heart, a good parent, etc.) it is assumed that they must be in heaven.

So who is really teaching a "works-based salvation" where eternal life is earned through certain works? It's not those of us who teach obedience, humility and dependance on God! Rather, it's those who, despite all pretenses and claims to the contrary, believe and teach that God owes any good, decent person eternal life.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shadows of the Mountains

Gideon's son, Abimelech, not only had a lust for power but the gumption to do something about it. After persuading the men of Shechem to side with him, he killed all seventy of his half-brothers (Gideon's sons) and became the king of Israel. This was a treacherous and wicked deed that God wouldn't let go unpunished. 

God did allow Abimelech to reign for three years until He "sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech" (Judges 9:23). Urged on by Gaal, the men of Shechem cursed Abimelech and challenged him (vs. 28-29). Little did they know, one of Abimelech's allies, Zebul, heard everything, alerted Abimelech, and arranged a surprise attack on the city of Shechem that would take place the following morning. The rebellion would be squashed!

It's here that we find the lesson of the article...
"So Abimelech and all the people who were with him rose by night, and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies. When Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the city gate, Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from lying in wait. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, 'Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!' But Zebul said to him, 'You see the shadows of the mountains as if they were men'" (Judges 9:34-36).
When Gaal finally realized what was happening, it was too late. Abimelech's army took the city! 

Here's the lesson...

There was a real threat against the city. Abimelech's army was charging forward. They had the momentum and the element of surprise. But Abimelech's inside man was able to convince Gaal that the charging army was nothing more than the "shadows of the mountains."

Likewise, there are often legitimate threats against us and/or the Lord's church, but due to crafty and persuasive friends, or even brethren, we relax and don't take the threats seriously. When we finally realize what's happening, it is often too late.

Perhaps you're in a relationship that has the potential of being spiritually destructive. Maybe you're being encouraged to take a certain path in life even though that path is going to take you away from God. Maybe certain brethren in your church are encouraging you and others not to take a false doctrine so seriously. In these and countless other scenarios, you may see the impending danger, but the devil is whispering in your ear, "Don't worry, those are just the shadows of the mountains."

In the Bible, God has not only instructed us how to live, He has warned us of the many dangers and threats that we will face as Christians and as churches. In many of these cases, He has told us how to respond. Let's study His word so that we can be more aware of these threats, and let us react to these threats as He would have us to. Don't listen to people, even brethren, who encourage you to relax in the face of sin and error.

In the end, God used Abimelech to punish the wickedness of Shechem and then used a woman to punish the wickedness of Abimelech. Likewise, the threats and dangers against God's people and His church will one day peter out...but again, if we're not careful, we may be consumed in the process.

Be vigilant lest you suffer the same fate as Gaal and the men of Shechem.