Category Archives: salvation

What Must I Do?

In Acts 16:30 the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

William MacDonald wrote the following comment in his commentary:

“This question must precede every genuine case of conversion. A man must know he is lost before he can be saved. It is premature to tell a man how to be saved until first he can say from his heart, I truly deserve to go to hell…Many people today seem to have difficulty knowing what it means to believe. However, when a sinner realizes he is lost, helpless, hopeless, hell-bound, and when he is told to believe on Christ as Lord and Savior, he knows exactly what it means. It is the only thing left that he can do!” (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Logos)

Do you have hope without Jesus? You’re hopeless, then.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” – Acts 16:31

 

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“Let God be True, and Luther a Liar”

The following post (and it’s a long one) was written 5 years ago in 2011, shortly after returning from Florida where I officiated a beach wedding. Being that today is Martin Luther King, Jr’s holiday, I thought this piece might be a nice reminder that racism, regardless of the race, is sin. Dr. King knew that in order to change things, men’s hearts had to change. Unfortunately, the best we can do is still going to be flawed. Our only hope is found in God, our Mighty Fortress and Strength.

St. Petersburg, FL

Forgive me, but I am not a big fan of St. Petersburg, especially in the winter when it is 45 degrees. To me, Florida is supposed to be HOT. The warmest it got last week was in the low 70’s. The water on both coasts was terribly cold; therefore, sightseeing was more appropriate than sunbathing on the beach (which I don’t prefer, anyway). But aside from all of that, I still don’t think I would have liked St. Petersburg, even if it had been in the dead of summer.

However, they did have a few nice museums.

From books to IPhones

One museum we (Katie and I) enjoyed was the Museum of Fine Arts (http://www.fine-arts.org/). Believe it or not, it was the first time that I ever had the chance to stand in a room full of paintings by Monet. It was impressive, especially when you consider how close a teenager could stand next to objects worth multiple millions of dollars. Fortunately for the paintings, teenagers have touch-screen phones to keep their fingers occupied.

Another place we went, at my insistence, was the Florida Holocaust Museum (http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/). I felt that it was important for the girls to see with their own eyes what true hatred and bigotry, even false religion can do. Not as big, nor as impressive as the museum in Washington, D.C., this museum still told the story well and featured an original cattle car that once carried Jews to the concentration camps.

Amelia Island, FL

When we left St. Petersburg, in order to find another beach to help Haley with her science project, at the advice of my brother-in-law, we went to Amelia Island in Fernandina, Florida. Now THAT was a change from St. Petersburg. Through priceline.com we even got a 3-star hotel for $52 a night! Not bad for a place with a huge, clean beach and a small-town feel.

“Big Guns on the Wall”

The highlight to the trip, for me, was when we got to visit Fort Clinch on Amelia Island. The fort was built back in the 1800’s and served both the Conferderate (1861) and the Union troops. It was a massive, red brick fortress overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and was meant to protect the Cumberland Sound. Fully restored, with reenactors playing the part, it was meant to give you the feel of stepping back in time to 1864.

I was really impressed with the fort. Even my wife was amazed. As I stood on its walls with huge canons, or on its proud bastions, I could not help but remember the words to the famous hymn by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress.”

 

“A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.”

A Painful Thought

But while at Fort Clinch a painful thought crossed my mind. Just the day before, my girls were able to read other words from Martin Luther in the Florida Holocaust Museum. You see, even though Luther has been regarded as the father of the Reformation, he was a rabid anti-semite. In one display chronicling centuries of hatred toward the Jewish people, the words from Luther’s book, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” was written in bold for every Christian to see. Here are some quotes from that book:

“He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.”

“If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country.”

“Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.”

“My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.”

What a contrast! One moment I am being inspired by a fortress that reminds me of the greatness of God, the next I am being reminded of the painful truth that men are sinners – all with the same song. How could the words of one man inspire both the Church and the Nazi party at the same time?

Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress” based on Psalm 46:11, “The LORD of hosts [is] with us; the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.” God is our refuge and our hope in time of trouble. The Psalmist also said, agreeing with Luther,

I will say of the LORD, [He is] my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. – Psa 91:2 KJV

What are we to make of this, then? Is my hope in God supposed to be dashed all because of the actions of some (or all) of his followers? Are we to assume the truth of God is a lie because of the hateful words of Luther, as opposed to his hymns and 95 theses? Martin Luther was terribly wrong in his observations of the Jews. For that matter, David wasn’t perfect, either. No, God is God. Man is man. That is why it is so important to keep in mind the following words from the Apostle Paul:

…[Let] God be true, and every man a liar…” – Romans 3:4 KJV

When Peter got it right, Jesus called him “blessed” and praised the fact that the Father gave him the words (Matthew 16:17). However, when Peter spoke in the flesh, out of his own selfish desires, Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (verse 23). When we speak out of hand about God, that does not change the truth about God.  Luther got some things right.  Luther also got some things wrong in a very bad way.

My God IS a mighty fortress…and He loves the people of Israel.  He has made that abundantly clear, despite the ramblings and false doctrines of men. God said, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Gen 12:3 KJV  Nothing has changed.  Let God be true, and Luther be a liar. Let God be true, and Peter a liar. Let God be true, and every one of us a liar. God is Who He is, whether we get it right or not. But because of Luther’s mistaken words, may we be ever more diligent to heed these words:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2Ti 2:15 KJV

Why? Because Jesus said it right, and He ALWAYS got it right, when He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – Jhn 17:17 KJV

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. – Pro 30:5-6 ESV

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“Sinner’s Prayer” Controversy: My Response

What better to post on a Sunday than something having to do with salvation? 

As much as I love monkey videos and sarcastic responses to political idiocy, those things have little relevance if they never point people to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

I am writing this on Saturday morning and scheduling it to be posted on Sunday. The reason I am writing it is because I was just notified of a “like” to a comment I made EXACTLY a year ago today (Saturday) on another blog, The River Walk.

Subject: The “Sinner’s Prayer.” Is it biblical or unbiblical? Should it be encouraged or banned? Can it be effective, or is it as David Platt called it, “superstitious” and “damning”?

The following was and is my response:

Where do I start? Where do I end? I’m a Baptist. I’m a Baptist pastor. I prayed the “prayer” as a child. I am born again. I have given altar calls. I have invited others to pray the “prayer” during invitations. There’s no way I can know who was born again…or not; only God knows. However, I can tell you about fruit.

No, the prayer doesn’t save; Jesus does. But what I see so often today is an attempt by many to belittle, malign, berate, and denigrate something that is precious and effective if presented in context with the true gospel message. I have seen it so many times: young, intellectual, up-and-coming theologians stirring up strife within the body of Christ, all the while holding on to the banner of grace, attempting to change, as if change itself was something divine. Why not accept the “sinners prayer” with a little more grace and along with it teach the fundamental doctrines on which it depends to be effective?

We ARE commanded to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Rom. 10:13). Is it not a “sinner’s prayer” when a sinner prays for salvation? Yes, I believe that there have been many false conversions brought about by head-hunting preachers and evangelists leading silent, congregational “sinner’s prayers.” That is why when I give an invitation I always explain that true salvation will result in public confession (Matt. 10:32-33). In other words, I never say “Pray with me…” and then ask people to come forward. I say that if one is truly repentant, truly understands his need of new birth, truly finds himself humbled at the foot of the cross, then he will have no problem coming to an altar, making a public profession, and then being baptized.

So, to sum this up…sorry for the length…I was saved at the age of 6 (I’m 47) when I realized that I was a sinner, was going to hell, and that the only way to heaven was to accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t have been able to recite the Apostle’s Creed, the Baptist Faith and Message, or even the Ten Commandments, but I knew I was lost. My dad led me to a little Sunday school room where we knelt at a little table, and it was there that my dad, a humble, former moonshiner, led me in the “sinner’s prayer,” because I didn’t know any better way to say what was in my little heart. That was the day I was saved, and I thank God my dad prayed with me.

That’s my 2 cents.

Do you disagree? That’s fine; it was only 2 cents. I am His, and He is mine, and that’s what matters.

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Is Your Christianity a Sham?

Adorable Sin

It may come as a shock to some, but many who claim to be Christians are not, actually. It is obvious because of their unrepentant love of sin.

For example, I know a person who willfully admits his failures and flaws (which is a good thing), but happily continues to do the very things he knows are wrong. He says, “I know I have a problem with (blank), but I know I’ll never change, so I’ll just have to keep asking for forgiveness.” In reality, the problem is that he loves his sin, and therefore refuses to truly repent and “turn from his wicked ways.” His particular sin is his claim to fame, his identity. Without it, he wouldn’t be noticed.

Am I suggesting that Christians NEVER sin? Of course not! The Bible plainly tells us that if we say we never sin, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Furthermore, just two verses later the Apostle John declares that if we say have have no sin we make God a liar!

But what about 1 John 5:18? Does it not clearly state that “whosoever is born of God sinneth not?” Yes, in the Authorized Version it does. However, the NIV renders the first part of 1 John 5:18 as: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin [emphasis added]…” Similarly, the NLT says that someone who is born of God (a Christian) does not “make a practice of sinning…

No, I’m not saying Christians never sin. What I am saying is that if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, sin may happen, but it’s not what you’re known for. What is being expressed here is the idea of continual, habitual sin – the kind one has no desire to change and even brags about it.

Advice for the Soul

depressorsMy advice to you, dear reader, is that you take a moment and conduct a spiritual self-examination.

David prayed, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” (Psalm 26:2). The Apostle Paul even urged church members to “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine” (2 Corinthians 13:5a NLT).

The hard, cold truth is that when one claims to be a believer, a Christian, yet habitually, characteristically, and proudly continues in the practice of a particular, obvious sin, his salvation/conversion/Christianity is most likely a sham.

Christianity is not just a label one wears, but a change that is made, both initially and on-going, in the life of the believer. Sin may happen, but when it does, a sorrowful and repentant heart is the result.

Please understand, I only wrote these things “that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). 

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Shopping – Evidence We Need Jesus

Last Minute

I will confess, in just a little while I will be going out to do some last-minute shopping. Yes, I know it’s going to be hectic and crazy out there, especially if any Black Lives Matter protesters plan on clogging our local mall. Nevertheless, the shopping has to be done.

Fortunately for me, I am not on a mission to buy a bunch of stuff for everyone on my list; all I need to do is find a couple of things for a couple of people, and that’s it. The only other things I may buy today are a cup of coffee and stamps (yes, there are going to be some late Christmas cards this year).

The Perfect Gift

But this whole shopping thing got me to thinking: will we ever find the “perfect” gift? So often people spend hours and hours navigating traffic, long lines, websites, and clearance racks trying to find a gift that is just right, one that is just “perfect” for the recipient. Color, size, flash, style, and price all play a part in trying to determine how the gift will be received – will they love it or hate it? Who knows?

Unfortunately, because of the stress of it all, much gift-giving has been reduced to whatever is on sale or the ultimately non-personal gift card. The fact is that the “perfect gift” is an illusion, or a sign, rather, that there is something just beyond our grasp – the real perfect gift.

Already Given

You see, here’s the thing: the only “perfect gift” has already been given; all other gifts pale in comparison. Jesus – the meaning of the season – was the Perfect Gift from God to man, making all other gifts mere reflections.

Seriously, what other gift can compare to the One that was delivered in Bethlehem?

  • He was given at the perfect time (Galatians 4:4);
  • He was wrapped like no other gift could ever be (Luke 2:12; Philippians 2:7);
  • He was exactly what everyone in all the world needs (Luke 2:11);
  • He was the greatest expression of love the world would ever see (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

There’s nothing you’re going to find at any mall or specialty store better than what was already given two thousand years ago. Our search for the “perfect” gift is nothing more than a sign – that there’s always something better, something that can’t be purchased, something only grace can provide.

Have a merry Christmas!

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2,500 Followers and Bacon

Saturday List

Before I write anything else, I must warn you that my wife has a long list of things for me to complete, such as clean the windows, scrub the floor, clean of my computer desk, and make sure there’s nothing left on the china cabinet but dishes that we never use.

I just wanted to tell you about the list that awaits me because I am typing as fast as I can, all in the attempt to get this post written before my wife finishes breakfast and begins staring daggers through me.

Bad Bacon

Bacon. Yes, bacon.

Bacon. Yes, bacon.

Here’s a totally random question. Bacon…if it’s past the expiration date and slightly turned in color, but doesn’t smell bad, does frying it, thereby causing it to sit in sizzling grease, kill any bacteria or germs? In other words, can carbonized bacon make you sick?

Well, I just ate some. We will see.

Followers

Now, to the point of the day: 2,500 followers.

Do I really have 2,500 followers? Technically, no I do not, for as of this writing I am 20 followers shy of the mark. But the real question I have is how many of those followers are actual followers? How many of those nearly 2,500 people actually come behind me, watch my steps, and then walk in the path I am blazing? One? Three?

If the truth be known, many of those called “followers” are not really followers of me, or my blog. Many have only subscribed in order to get me to follow their blogs. Many have subscribed in haste after reading only one interesting post, then never come back. Others follow my blog and what I write in order to find fault, gather evidence, or get a laugh.

So, as I digest my bacon, what is the point I am frantically trying to make before my blogging time for the day is up? I don’t know, really. However, here are a few thoughts…

  • I am glad there are not 2,500 people looking over my shoulder
  • It would be nice if I could manage 2,500 views a day
  • If I really had 2,500 followers, more would question why I take certain paths
  • There is no way on earth I can write something without offending hundreds – if they actually read what I write
  • I want to be a better follower of Christ than I am a “follower” of someone’s blog

No Cross Required

If you want to know what it means to be a REAL follower – a disciple – then be a follower of Jesus Christ. But if you want to follow Jesus, please note that He requires more than a click and an email address.

“…If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

I am not asking you to give your life to me; no cross is required to follow The Recovering Legalist. But if you do follow my blog, I certainly hope you pick up on Whom I am following, and choose to do the same.

If you’d like to learn more about following Jesus, why not click HERE

Time to get on that to-do list my wife has for me. The bacon hasn’t killed me… yet.

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Proper Fear and Persuading Others

Not long ago I preached a sermon to my congregation, the following text being one of several that I used.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” – 2 Corinthians 5:11a

There is so much talk about terrorism these days, so much talk about fear, yet very few talk about the fear of God. Why is that? After all, aren’t we commanded to fear the Lord? Isn’t it the wise thing to do?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

The problem is that we get so distracted by the common, temporal fears of this world and forget about the eternal. Our minds are so cluttered with all the stresses of this life that we forget about what comes after.

Both of the previous verses also talk about “knowing” and  the “knowledge” of God. In the first passage (2 Cor.5:11a) the Apostle Paul is essentially telling the Corinthians: “Hey, it’s because we know who God is and what He’s capable of, not to mention the fact that we must all stand before Him one day (5:10), that we do our dead-level best to tell it to you like it is!”

In the second passage, wise King Solomon is telling anyone who will listen, “The more you know God, the better you’ll understand how life works.” Knowing and understanding who God is will produce produce fear: terror in His enemies; reverential fear in those who love Him.

Jesus said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). [emphasis added]

So, while ever-present bad news will tend to make us want to run and hide or take matters into our own hands, keep everything in its proper perspective. Those who serve the Living Savior; those who are reconciled to God by the atonement of the cross of Christ; those who were once strangers, but now have been made children of the Father, can find peace and rest in the fearfully omnipotent hand of our faithful Creator.

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” – 1 Peter 4:19 

The only ones who should be living in terror, in fear of what may come today or tomorrow, are those who have never known God, have forgotten God, or worse, mock Him (Romans 1:18-32).

When we persuade others to fear God in the proper way, they will come to know His love and love Him in return. Then, instead of living in terror, ironically, “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15 

Are you living in fear? Can you call God “Abba, Father” (Daddy)? A proper relationship will produce a proper fear; terror is the product of rebellion.

If you don’t fully understand what I’ve written, or if you’d like to know more about how to live in peace without terror, click on the Eternal Life tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions.

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