When You Believed

There is a common teaching in evangelical circles that a person receives the Holy Spirit the very first moment they believe in Christ. Many have never questioned this belief. But when asked for a verse that teaches such a doctrine, Ephesians 1:13 is usually the first mentioned. I am sure there are others, but this verse is the strongest proof text I know of for the doctrine. So let’s briefly consider what it is teaching.

Eph 1:13

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 

Many think that this verse teaches that the moment one believes they automatically receive the Holy Spirit. But actually it does not, as other verses show.

Acts 11:17

If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

In this verse Peter says the Apostles received the Holy Spirit “when they believed.” But we know that though they believed in the Gospels, they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit until Pentecost. So the term “when we believe” does not mean the moment we believed, but as a result of our faith.

Continue reading “When You Believed”

Psalm 25:6-8

Psalm 25:6-8

Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, For they are from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.

The psalmist asks God to magnify his mercy by forgetting the psalmist’s sins & remembering His own mercy and goodness instead. God is by no means required to do this. In fact, in most people God magnifies His justice & wrath as Romans 9:22-23 teaches. God’s wrath is right and just, but our earnest request to Him is that in His wrath He would remember mercy for His name’s sake (Hab. 3:2). It is foolish to imagine we will receive anything from God by appealing to our goodness, but when we appeal to His goodness we can have confidence that we will receive the mercy we are pleading for.

The psalmist recognizes his sinfulness before a holy God. We too must approach God in humility and honesty. But when we despair because of our corrupt humanity we must hope in & magnify God’s mercy. We don’t only ask Him to remember His mercy and forget our sin, we also must magnify God’s mercy by setting our hope on His goodness which is greater than our sinfulness. His mercy is our only hope, there is nothing in our nature or heart that can give us hope; all is fallen & corrupt. He is our hope, righteousness & salvation.

But we should also magnify God’s mercy by learning His ways as in vs 8. We know we are sinners but trust that God in His goodness will lead us in paths of righteous for His name’s sake (Ps. 23:3). In view of God’s mercy we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). One who does not turn away from sin has not set their hope on God’s mercy, but they have deceived themselves into thinking that God can be mocked (Gal. 6:3). Those who have truly trusted in the kind forgiveness of God will reveal it in their lives by hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Mat. 5:6).

Search Me O God!

“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

An old Methodist Catechism has this question and answer in one section:

“Q: Can we turn our own heart to believe the gospel, and love it?

A: No, we must pray for grace to turn our heart.”

I am convinced by observing my own heart that this truth doesn’t only apply to turning our hearts to believe and love the gospel, but turning our hearts to do any good at all. Jesus said that apart from him we can do nothing. What he meant was that we could do nothing truly good or of eternal value apart from him. We all do many things apart from Christ, and those things are of no value in the kingdom of God. Sadly, these Christ-less acts hinder the advancement of God’s kingdom.

This command to “guard our hearts” is one of those things I am fully convinced I cannot do without Christ. I know I can be ever so diligent to watch my heart, but within a few hours I stray into earthly thinking, planning and walking. I’m not here talking about sinful transgression; I’m talking about living and seeking to do good without a full and desperate dependence on my Maker, which I guess is the very source of all transgression. I find that my “heart is more deceitful than anything else,” and I can’t understand it (Jeremiah 17:9). I am persuaded that  the statement, “Unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain” could faithfully be changed to, “Unless the Lord watches over my heart, I, the watchman stay alert in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

We know that God expects His commands to be fully obeyed (Ps119:4) so we must guard our hearts. but there is only one way I know how to do it. I must cry out by the Holy Spirit at various times of the day, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalms 39:23-24).

Guard your heart by recognizing that only He can guard your heart. Don’t imagine that you can navigate through the deceptive corruption that is called your “heart.” Call upon God to save you from yourself and your “wisdom,” your “righteousness,” and your “sincerity.” Don’t cry out once or twice and then coast along self-deceived; cry out without ceasing, “God save me! God help me! God lead me!”

“Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Died to Save, Died to Gather – John 11:50-52

John 11:47-53

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

cross nail
Continue reading “Died to Save, Died to Gather – John 11:50-52”

Faith vs. Works, According to Paul

Galatians 2:15-16

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

James 2:18-24

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” -and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Sprinter Crossing the Finish Line
Continue reading “Faith vs. Works, According to Paul”

Saving Faith According to James

Galatians 2:15-16

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Romans 3:28

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

James 2:18-24

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” -and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

When we read these passages side by side they seem to offer conflicting views on how we are justified (i.e. forgiven and accepted by God; considered members of God’s people in good-standing). Paul in the books of Galatians and Romans seems to make it clear that we are accepted by God because of our faith alone, apart from anything we do. But James says with equal clarity that we are “justified by works and not by faith alone.” Knowing whether we are right with God or not, is a very important bit of information to have. So this is something we must wrestle with until we understand what James and Paul are trying to tell us.
Continue reading “Saving Faith According to James”