Month: September 2013

Limited Atonement, Part 1 – Setting The Wrong Limits

Calvinism fundamentally changes the way one must view the entire gospel of Christ from beginning to end. It changes the meaning of why Jesus came to the earth, it changes the meaning of what the cross stands for and it changes the invitation to man given by God through His Son. Calvinism in its own twisted way essentially teaches that mankind is equal but separate. Equal in that we’re all “born sinners” and in need of salvation – but separate in that we all can’t have it because only God chooses who will get it.

Up to this point we’ve considered the error filled teachings of Total Hereditary Depravity and Unconditional Election. Now it’s time to examine a new petal on the foul-smelling flower called Limited Atonement.

Unconditional election teaches that since you’re, make that we’re born completely depraved and not able to choose God or do anything good spiritually, the decision of whether we’re eternally saved or lost has already been made for us and there’s nothing anyone on either side of the situation can do about it! Now according to this line of thinking, God’s sovereignty chooses everything, including everyone, concerning salvation, and since his sovereignty never fails concerning salvation that means Jesus could not have died for everyone, because if he did and everyone isn’t saved that would mean God’s sovereignty failed.

So in a nutshell, Limited Atonement means: that Jesus died only for the unconditionally elect, purchased only their salvation, and that there is NO benefit in the cross whatsoever for anyone else other than God’s pre-chosen and unconditionally elect.

The doctrine of “Limited Atonement” in plain language says that before Adam chose to sin and his sin became our “inherited guilt” that we’re born with, God said, “I’m going to send my son for the lost, but not for all of them.” It takes the cross of Christ and says to mankind, “Get as close as you want to the blood of the cross, but the blood of the cross won’t take you any closer to God.” It takes God’s grace and rubs it in the face of the unconditionally rejected and tells them that they have a Creator who couldn’t care less about them!

Now the reality is, according to the truth of the Gospel, and which we’ll get into a lot more in the next lesson, the statements made above are completely wrong because the Bible actually teaches there is such a thing as universal atonementwhich is the exact opposite of Limited Atonement. Where the confusion comes in for Calvinistic adherents who are busy trying to unnecessarily defend “God’s sovereignty” is that they take universal atonement and equate it with universal salvation which is indeed a false doctrine.

But instead of limiting salvation to those who choose to place their faith in Jesus, as the Gospel teaches it should be done (John 3:16-17), Calvinism limits the atonement to limit the availability of salvation so “God’s sovereignty” is not controlled by whether or not someone chooses or doesn’t choose to believe. Because in case you haven’t figured it out – according to Calvinism you don’t even choose whether or not you believe (but that’s for a completely different “petal”).

So like I said, contrary to Calvinism, the Bible does indeed teach that Jesus’ atonement is universal – but universal atonement is not the same thing as universal salvation! This is where Calvinists get so confused…not because the Bible is confusing when it comes to this topic; rather they get confused because their dependence upon a manmade doctrine makes them close their eyes when they  look at such a clear biblical truth right in the face.

Now that we understand what “Limited Atonement” means and how it sets the wrong limits on the redeeming power of Jesus’ blood we can move on to have a greater understanding of how the far-reaching grace of God works through the atonement of Jesus’ blood in the next lesson. EA

And they were greatly surprised, saying to him, Who then may have salvation? Jesus, looking on them, said, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27 – BBE)

A Right Relationship with God Must be Personal

A right relationship with God today is based upon a person’s personal desire. That’s why Hebrews 8:10-12 says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.

God’s people follow Him because they have learned about Him. That’s why Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:44,45) A relationship with God through the New Covenant is not an inherited one in that a person is “born into it” before they learn of God’s will. They learn of God’s will and then they are born-again by it (John 1:12-13, 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:23). This is why the conversion recorded in Acts 18:8 says, “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” Crispus along with the Corinthians learned of God’s will and then they entered into a personal relationship with Him.

A right relationship with God also takes personal responsibility. Peter told the Pentecost crowd to be baptized for their own sins, not Adam and Eve’s (Acts 2:37-38). When we understand and believe that God loves us and that His Son was sent to die for the sins of the world, including our own, and we’re willing to repent of the ones that we’re involved in then, and only then, we are ready to enter into a relationship (a personal relationship) with God through His Son, Jesus (Galatians 3:26-27).

We must be willing to follow Jesus individually despite what those closest to us think about our decision. That’s why Jesus said:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39)

A right relationship with God is something that we must be personally determined to make. And although the decision to follow Jesus will not always be easy, if we’re willing to make it whatever the cost then we will be given a personal reward from the One who knows us better than anyone else (2 Timothy 4:8). EA

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

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What A Difference A Day Can Make

For those of you reading this today, tomorrow is going to be the 11th day of September; hopefully a date that all reasonably aged Americans remember, for tomorrow will be the 12th anniversary of the horrible terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and of the plane that went down into that Pennsylvania field.

If you’re like most people, the images of that day are probably seared into your mind. I can remember that day clearly. I remember the weather, the voices on the radio station that I was listening to when the news broke, and I can even remember the driveway that I was pulling into at that moment. I also remember that my relationship with God wasn’t right. Most of all, I remember the uncertainty of that day.

All because of the false faith and very real hate of a handful of people, some three thousand people lost their lives that day with countless others being personally affected by it up to this very moment.

I have often wondered about the people who lost their lives in the attacks. For them September the 10th was business as usual. Families, friends and jobs were left that evening with all expectations of being seen again the next day. The morning after probably started out just like the one before with one major difference – that day, their today, would come with no tomorrow on the Earth! Their present became their future in a very unexpected and heartbreaking way.

There is no doubt that God heard the voices of millions of strangers that day; mine own included. I suppose in many ways it was no different than any other day.

One lesson that finite humanity always needs to be reminded of is that the infinite Lord teaches that we never know what tomorrow will bring (Proverbs 27:1) and that today, the day we have at this moment, this is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Why so many of us leave things up to “chance” I suppose I’ll never understand, but one thing is certain: God doesn’t want us to wait for tomorrow to be made right with Him!

We don’t fully know what the people who died on September 11th had planned on doing that day, but we do know it was never done. And we never know when that changing day for us may be the tomorrow around the corner.

God willing, tomorrow will be September the 11th, 2013 for both you and I. That is, unless this is the day that will make a big difference in our tomorrow.

Please continue to pray for the patience and longsuffering and providence and healing of Almighty God for our government, for our country, for our soldiers and for those who are still wounded from the attacks made on the day that made such a difference. EA

Seek the Lord when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. Let the wicked abandon their ways and the sinful their schemes. Let them return to the Lord so that he may have mercy on them, to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness. My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans.” (Isaiah 55:6-9 – CEB)

The “Baccy” doesn’t have to be Wacky!

Yes, I know there are bigger and more important spiritual issues that I could be talking about; and no, I don’t mean to sound picky, or like the government, or even like your parents when you were a teenager – but I do mean to sound like a friend when I say, “If you smoke, kick the habit!”

As someone who has witnessed the awful effects of emphysema and cancer first hand, and as someone (if I personally know you) who may have to sit beside your hospital bed while you cough up one or both of your lungs in the future, I’m telling you that you can’t go wrong by snipping that stick right in butt.

Smoking is just plain awful for your health, and for the health of those around you. Most people think smoking causes them to relax, but in reality it makes it harder for you to breathe, raises your blood pressure and alters your ability to function normally without it. Nicotine is not a therapist who cares about you!

As Christians, our body is God’s temple on both the outside and the inside:

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – NKJV)

And don’t forget, the smoke that filled and glorified the old temple didn’t come from ashtrays.

I don’t say any of this to belittle, shame or make fun of anyone – I say what I say because I care and because the “baccy” doesn’t have to be wacky for it to be bad stuff. EA

Let everything which has breath give praise to the Lord. Let the Lord be praised.” (Psalm 150:6 – BBE)

“Well Off” is not always “Better Off”

Have you ever described someone by saying he or she was “well off” when it comes to their finances?

Have you ever realized how “well off” and “better off” can be two different things?

Some Christians have never made more money in their lifetime, but they have never given less of their means, they have never attended the church’s services less, they have never seen their family less, they have never prayed less, they have never studied the Bible less and their life has never reflected a more thank-less spiritual attitude than ever before!

This is partly why the apostle Paul said, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Truth be told, “well off” does not necessarily mean “worse off” but it definitely does not always mean “better off” either! EA

Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23-24)