About Dan C.

Retired U.S. Army Special Forces SGM (28 years). Currently employed as a government contractor. Member of Christian Military Fellowship (www.cmfhq.org) for 30 years. Married for 43 years to the lovely Dee; three children and 6 grandchildren.

Sharing the Gospel in a Hostile Culture, Part 1 – Be Available

It’s not exactly rocket science that our American culture seems to be more hostile to public expressions of Christianity with each passing day. Christian values across the board are ridiculed when they run counter to a society’s prevailing values and attitudes, and it’s nothing new. At the same time, sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is both the mission and great privilege of all believers. So how are we to accomplish this mission knowing that merely expressing our faith in public settings outside of our respective faith communities?

This is the first in a series of articles addressing this all important issue from the personal perspective of an old soldier who just wants “to leave something behind” (to quote the title of a Sean Rowe song) that might help others traveling along Gospel Highway.

As the above title states, the first step is to just ‘be available’. It sounds easy, but it might be more difficult that it sounds. While all of us have at one time or another told God (not without a certain amount of pride) that we are available to do whatever he commands us to do, who among us has not taken a step backward when faced with very real consequences of exiting the jump door of a high performance aircraft into unknown darkness. Paratrooper metaphor aside, it can be scary. So before you declare to our Savior your willingness and availability to share His gospel with the world around you, consider the cost in terms of what it will mean in your personal life. Are you ready to be open about your Christian faith, no matter what? That’s the starting point. Keeping your faith to yourself isn’t an option.

While I might not know you, I do know that if you are available, God will use you. Here are a few examples I know of from within the Special Forces community.

  • ·A small detachment of SF soldiers were training in the Allegheny forest in Pennsylvania. One of the men was known by all of the men to be a Christian, although he didn’t advertise it. Another of the men, a team medic, was dating a girl from Boston who was a Christian and talked about God now and again. The entire detachment was sitting around a camp fire in the woods (non-tactical) and the medic started talking about his ‘Christian’ girlfriend from Boston and asking questions.
  • ·An SF Battalion field headquarters was established in the Cape Cod area for a training exercise. During the exercise one of the SF soldiers in the Bn died when both of his parachutes failed during an infiltration operation in upstate NY. His name was Bob and he was a strong believer. The Bn Commander in the Cape Cod location wanted to have a memorial service for Bob and asked for someone who was close to Bob to visit with the local minister who was to mold the service in the field headquarters. As a result of the meeting, the entire field headquarters heard a clear presentation of the gospel message, from the commander (LTC) on down.
  • ·An SF “A” Team Leader (CPT) was killed over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988 returning from an exercise planning event. The Pan Am aircraft was destroyed by a bomb. One of his Team Sergeants, an E-8, who had served his Team for a year before being reassigned to another position in the 10th SF Group, was a believer and all of the team members knew it. The former Team Sergeant attended the funeral service at the SF Chapel at Ft. Devens. When the casket bearers were walking from the chapel to the waiting hearse, the former Team Sgt’s eyes and the eyes of the casket bearers met and a silent reminder of the finality of death passed between them.

We share these examples solely to demonstrate what can happen, in God’s providence, just because you are available, without any overt actions on your part. No initiating religious conversations, passing out Gospel literature, or “I’m a Fool for Jesus, Whose Fool Are You?” bumper stickers. God opens doors. All we do is walk through those doors and let God be God. Seeds of the Gospel are sown and souls are eternally saved.

I leave you with a question.

Are you available?

Be blessed as you grow in Christ!

Is Christmas Christian?

by Phil Ryken December 26, 1999

Today is December 26, the day after Christmas. By now most of us are recuperating from the frenzied holiday rounds of parties, shopping, driving, visiting, entertaining and of course the giving and receiving of gifts. Many of us are repentant of our avarice on the one hand, and probably all of us are sick of the commercialism and exploitation. Perhaps now is not the time to ask the question I am going to offer, “Should we do it?”

By asking that question I do not mean, “Should we be greedy or materialistic? Should we buy into the exploitation and worldly mythology?” I do not expect many Christians to have trouble with that question, even if avoiding those things is not quite so easy. But the question I want to ask is this: “Should we even have Christmas? Should we observe it at all? Should Christians, as an expression of fidelity to the God of the Bible participate in the cultural-religious phenomenon that we call Christmas? Is it a damaging and dangerous product of a godless culture that Christian parents and friends should steer clear of as being unfaithful to the Lord and unhealthy to us and our children?

There are more than a few Christians who agree with this assessment, who just say “no” to Christmas altogether and who follow their words with action. No wreaths, no Christmas tree, no stockings, certainly no Santa Claus and no reindeer. One such Christian, Dr. Alan Clifford, writing in Britain’s Evangelicals Now publication, says this:

Christmas was the result of a growing tendency of the Roman Church to meet paganism half-way… . If Christmas is without a true Christian basis, it should be scrapped.

Christmas as a “Worship Innovation” By no means is this an isolated view. Perhaps the Christians most famous for abhorring Christmas were the Puritans. We often quote Puritan writers here and generally look to Puritan Spirituality as a model of biblical Christianity. Indeed, it was their emphasis on obeying the Bible that we so admire that also led them to treat December 25th as any other day. The principle that governed the Puritans in this matter, as in many others, is the “regulative principle.” What this principle basically states is that God determines what is appropriate for worship, and He communicates this through His Word. Any human innovation, however well-meaning, is bound to be corrupted by our folly and sin and encroaches upon God’s holy prerogative. The Puritans were quite serious about this principle and often suffered persecution on its behalf. We honor their stands against the rites of the Roman Catholic church and the empty formalism of the Elizabethan Anglicans. It was because of the regulative principle that the Puritans refused to worship Christmas as they had opposed many other extra-biblical “innovations”.

Pagan Roots for Christmas?

Another strong reaction against Christmas comes from the charge that the holiday has pagan roots. The argument runs like this. December 25 was the date of the Roman Saturnalia festival, a wild orgiastic pagan rite focused on worship of the sun, and it was also correlated with various tribal pagan festivals associated with the winter solstice. As was argued above, Christmas represented just one of many Roman Catholic attempts to win over the ignorant and godless masses by putting a Christian label on an existing, idolatrous structure. Christmas, under this view, is just one of many Catholic innovations, like those that ushered in adoration of the saints and the veneration of Mary, both of which we vehemently reject.

In a recent spin through the internet, I came across a web site for witches, listed among web sites honoring Christmas, which gleely recounted the pagan roots of just about every bit of Christmas symbology. The yule log represented the wheel of time, the lights of Christmas recall the sacred fire and the birth of the Sun-King, while the evergreen was a symbol of fertility that recalls the student of the Old Testament to the Asherah pole so condemned by the prophets.

A Christian Apology for Christmas

With all of those arguments lined up, it is tempting to agree. Why not just get rid of Christmas, and with it all the materialism and greed that comes with such an unholy alliance? In response, and in defense of a Christian Christmas, I offer the following response. First of all, I do not argue for Christmas on the basis of the calendar. Scholars have long argued that it was very unlikely that shepherds would have had their flocks out during the coldest time of the year. So too, it is argued, it was most unlikely that the administratively efficient Romans would have ordered a census during the a month when travel was next to impossible. No, I do not argue for Christmas on the basis of December 25, the selection of which does seem to have been based on pre-existing pagan celebrations rather than historical accuracy.

Furthermore, I acknowledge that the great majority of Christmas symbols seem to have originated in pagan idolatry. Nonetheless, I think the holly branches, which the druids may claim for their own, also does a pretty fair job of reminding us of the crown of thorns that rested on Jesus’ brow, as well as the drops of blood that purchased my salvation. When it comes to the Christmas tree, I do not care what Germanic pagans believed. When in a darkened room I turn on the lights of my Christmas tree I hear only one voice. And it cries out with these lovely words of grace: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isa. 9:2). And I hear the words of the Apostle John, saying of my Lord, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men… . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:3, 9).

Paganism, of course, is no religion of its own. It merely crafts lies about the created order which itself testifies to God. The Old Testament often confronts idol-worshipping lies and even seizes pagan symbols for the Lord who made and owns them. The image, for instance, of the Lord riding on the clouds in power is a blatant conquest of an image widely used in the mythical literature of the idolatrous god Baal. In that respect, I smile to think of St. Boniface, one of the great missionaries to the pagans of Europe around the time when Christmas was invented, using the evergreen tree to show that what they worshiped as an object of idolatry better points to the living God and the eternal life He offers in Jesus Christ.

But even that is not my best reason for loving Christmas. My best reason comes from a gathering that took place in a park near my home in the East Falls section of Philadelphia just a couple of weeks ago. There, hundreds of my fellow citizens, the majority of whom I am sure are nominal Christians at best, joined their voices for a night of caroling. Of the 18 songs we sang, 13 were Christian hymns celebrating the birth of a Savior in glorious biblical language. I tried to keep track of the biblical doctrines that were flowing from their lips but I finally lost track: sin, atonement, the Incarnation, God’s holiness, the power of the Word, the Second Coming, the Kingdom of God, eternal life and resurrection of the dead. As Paul said about other matters we might say about this singing in the open air of Philadelphia: “Against such things there is no law.”

I respect that regulative principle of the Puritans, and even agree with it as a binding precept of our own denomination. But Scripture does permit, even mandate, the preaching of the Gospel, the singing of songs of praise, the reading of Scripture, and the praising of God in the open air. I am grateful to Christmas that many thus praise God and even worship Him fitly on this day, with hopes that they would honor Him with more and ultimately all of their lives.

I acknowledge that much about Christmas does injustice to the regulative principle, and we certainly want to be careful in this regard. But it wonderfully does justice to the redemptive principle, for which the Son of God came from heaven to earth, that He might claim and deliver a world that was lost in darkness.

_________

© 2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Phil Ryken. ©2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org

“De Oppresso Liber”

clip_image002 “De oppresso liber”, commonly translated “to liberate the oppressed” is the motto of U.S. Army Special Forces. The phrase stems from the exploits of World War II Office of Strategic Services Jedburgh/Sussex Teams operating behind the lines in France. Colonel Aaron Bank, father of United States Army Special Forces, and his teams enabled the French Resistance to grow and oppose the occupying German Army.

Although the phrase “to liberate the oppressed” might not be an exact grammatical and literal translation, the point is well made. Liberating oppressed peoples has always been a primary goal of U.S. Special Forces.

Perhaps one of the greatest symbols of oppression in the history of mankind was the Berlin Wall. We were stationed in Berlin between 1984 and 1987. When we were stationed in Berlin in the late 80’s, we were able to capture a picture of a small part of the Wall that depicted the goal of German people living on both sides:

clip_image004

The need to liberate oppressed peoples is nothing new, nor is it a goal or mission reserved for the temporal realm.

God raised up the Prophet Isaiah to accuse the leaders of a rebellious nation of not caring for the oppressed and remind them of their obligations as rulers:

“Learn to do well:
seek judgment,
relieve the oppressed
judge for the fatherless,
defend the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

Perhaps the most significant of the church fathers, Augustine of Hippo recognized that liberating those who are oppressed was one of the solemn responsibilities of pastoral ministry. In a sermon celebrating the anniversary of his ordination as a Bishop he eloquently described how he saw his duties:

“The turbulent have to be corrected,
The faint-hearted cheered up,
The weak supported;
The Gospel’s opponents need to be refuted,

Its insidious enemies guarded against;
The unlearned need to be taught,
The indolent stirred up,
The argumentative checked;

The proud must be put in their place,
The desperate set on their feet,
Those engaged in quarrels reconciled;
The needy have to be helped,

The oppressed to be liberated,
The good to be encouraged,

The bad to be tolerated;
All must be loved.”

(St. Augustine, Sermon 340,3: CChr.SL 194, 920.)

Oppression has many faces and affects all levels of society. The list of oppressors and oppressed people groups is too long to try and list here. At the same time, alleviating varying types of oppression (or perceived oppression), both from America’s past and existing today, has become a priority and matter of debate in secular society as well as the church. ‘Social justice’ issues have been declared by some to be integral to the message of the gospel itself instead of an outcome of having embraced the gospel that Christ died for our sins.

All of the above aside for a moment, I would like to ask you a question, and here it is:

“What is the single most dangerous and cruel form of oppression that has existed throughout the history of mankind and still exists today?”

I’ll give you a hint or two.

  • It exists in every country/nation on Earth and has affected every person that has ever been born since the fall of Adam.
  • It’s not oppression between people or groups of people,
  • It has eternal consequences.

(Insert 30 seconds of quiz show music……….)

And the answer is……………SIN.

The greatest oppression that has ever existed in the history of humanity is sin’s oppression of every single person born after the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve were created with a desire to please God, but also with the ability to disobey. Disobey they did, with disastrous results to follow and affect everyone ever born thereafter.

The Bible tells us about those who are lost to God and separated from Christ by sin:

The lost are slaves to sin.

“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness.” (Rom 6:16)

The lost are also spiritually dead.

The Apostle Paul told the believers in Ephesus that

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—” (Eph 2:1-2)

The lost are condemned already.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

That’s a really short list of passages that speak of the oppressed condition of all those separated from God and apart from Christ by sin. Perhaps the harshest description of the lost in the entire Bible is something else Paul told believers in Ephesus:

The lost are the “children of wrath”.

“…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:3)

No earthly oppression can ever compare to the oppression caused by the sin that is in the world that resulted from the disobedience of the first Adam. And there are many who live their happy and content lives oblivious of their condition in abject slavery to that sin.

But there is GOOD news! We don’t have to despair!

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

This is the very reason Christ came to Earth so long ago – “to seek and save that which was lost”. That was His mission on earth – the mission that was announced to His earthly father Joseph:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)

“De Opresso Liber”

Food for Thought (Dietary Tidbits) on the 16th of December, 2019

It’s really interesting how life shapes our dietary habits. At any given moment in time, how we view food, and the consumption thereof, changes. One person’s eating habits will invariably differ from everyone else’s, both in food preferences themselves and preferred mealtimes/schedules. Take the ‘DanDee’ couple in Fountain, Colorado. This is a septuagenarian couple that has been married for 44 years and are now empty nesters. Their journey together has resulted in having lived, as a military family, in various types of on-base military housing in several places here and abroad. There are grown children and grandchildren to dote upon. It’s been an interesting and wonderful journey through life!

If you haven’t figured it out already, this is Dan, the guy whose military career lasted nearly 30 years and by whose side the beautiful Dee has remained through all of the ‘stuff’ of life.

So back to food. On this particular morning I found myself thinking about our different breakfast habits. Dee loves her bacon (must be crispy) and eggs and will probably have both in her small breakfast when she gets up later. As for me, it was up really early to let our little Maltese, Betty Jean, out in the back yard (snow covered) for her regularly scheduled early morning business. I cranked up my work laptop to check on some things, knowing there would probably be a delayed opening of Schriever Air Force Base, where I am currently employed. It’s almost 6 AM now and I’ve already accomplished a few necessary things, including taking care of the snow in the driveway and sidewalks, which made me hungry. Being a bit hungry, I found a small pastry to go with a second mug of coffee (Kuerig & Sumatran Reserve). That’s when I thought about Dee’s bacon and eggs, my own eating habits, and how they have been shaped over time by life circumstances.

I remembered being a teenager and my Dad asking me if I ‘lived to eat’ or ‘eat to live’. I used to panic if the fridge wasn’t full of food, you see. Fast forward to a military career, mess halls (now consolidated dining facilities but the food is probably not much different), K-rations, C-rations, LRPs (Long Range Patrol) rations, and MREs (Meals Ready to eat). At times it was living off whatever nature had to offer. All of those wonderful menus will develop a great appreciation for wonderful meals prepared at home and shared with family.

Then my thoughts turned to our spiritual diets as believers in a great God and most gracious and wonderful Savior. The Christmas hymns in the background also contributed to the present condition of a heart so full it feels like it might burst! I have been so greatly blessed!

Back to diets. When I think of all of the various sources (and quality) of spiritual nourishment that I have consumed through the years, a few things really stand out. There are definitely comparisons to be made with the aforementioned types of cuisine a profession of arms afforded me. Then there is being able to eat a home cooked meal with family and friends. There is nothing like it! It’s not exactly going from starving to feasting, but awfully close.

The years spent as a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords have taught me that the written Word of God should be the main component of a good spiritual diet. Everything else in life should be measured by its golden text.

Then we have the ‘dinner table’ around which sit family and friends. That ‘dinner table’ seems to be available whether here or abroad, as we fellowship with other believers in local churches, military chapels, small group Bible studies, and even we happen to meet another believer on the street or in the workplace. How awesome is that?!!!!!

The ‘dinner table’ still exists when we are alone and by ourselves. We might be the only human being in the room, but in reality, we are never alone! Within us lives the Holy Spirit – leading, comforting, and guiding. Before us is a Bible, God’s very words to us, feeding us absolute truth and never-failing guidance for our lives. In addition to God’s very words to His children, in our day, with all of its technology, we also have a veritable plethora of resources available to us to help us along the way. There is so much out there that we need to have a discerning eye when we pick and choose what resource to use.

One such resource for this guy has been the set of Discipleship Training Objectives available through Christian Military Fellowship. To share what the CMF DTOs have meant to me would require another article. (If you think this is a shameless plug for something, you might be right, but then again you might be in error. I just wanted to put it out there.) If you are interested in what they might be about, contact me.

My encouragement to you is really think about your spiritual sustenance as you grow in faith and serve in the Kingdom of God, a citizen already, with an eternal home in heaven waiting for you when your pilgrimage here is done and you hear the words of your Savior – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Be blessed, today and forever!

Sinner, Save THYSELF?

I asked a question instead of making a statement for a reason. If I ended the title with a period or exclamation point, a lot of folks might end up with apoplexy (cerebral hemorrhage). After all, I doubt that a believing Christian of any stripe (Calvinist, Arminian, Calminian, or otherwise) would dare suggest that we save ourselves. Also, at the end of the day, my personal opinion is not relevant. Thus, the question.

But ‘WHY the question?’, you might be asking. Well, I’m going to tell you why I ask it.

You see, concerning the salvation of lost men, there are only a few conceivable options concerning who does what leading up to someone actually being saved. The ‘actors’ involved are but two, God and lost sinners. Our options:

1. God saves us (sinners) all by Himself.

2. God saves us with our help.

3. We save ourselves with God’s help.

4. We save ourselves all by ourselves.

Of those four options, let’s get rid of No. 4, that we save ourselves all by ourselves, which seems to be a ridiculous idea. It’s not new and was actually articulated the 5th Century by a man named Pelagius (and his chief disciple Celestius) who taught that we are quite capable of living holy lives without God’s help – that the human will at birth is not inclined toward either good or evil, and whether we perform good or evil acts is a matter of unencumbered free will decision. We do what we do based on decisions we make, apart from anything outside of us pushing us in one direction or the other. We literally can ‘save ourselves’.

That leaves us with three remaining options. Let’s look at No 3. – that we save ourselves with God’s help. That option takes into consideration the sequence of actions that take place on the road to salvation, specifically that while God sent Jesus to die for our sins, it’s our free will decision that makes salvation a reality in our lives. In other words, God made it possible for us to be saved by the death of His Son, but we close the transaction with an act of the human will. I think there’s a bit of sound logic here, but I don’t know anyone who would sign up to the idea.

On to No. 2, that God saves us with our help. I think this is by far the prevailing opinion of most evangelicals, although we balk at the idea of ‘helping’ God save us. You could call it the ‘fallback’ position from No. 3, since we would never actually say we save ourselves, but at the same time, a human free will decision to follow Christ is still in play, as the deciding factor in our salvation. God did 99% of the saving, with our free will decision being only 1%. God did His part, now we do our part. That sounds good, but if we ‘contributed’ anything to our salvation, don’t we have ‘reason to boast’, whether we do or not? If yes, that would be a violation of Eph 2:8-9.

So…….that leaves us with No. 1, that God saves us all by himself. The other 3 options have been eliminated. You can believer that, or we can play at being ‘hypothetical’ and assume No 1 is the truth of the matter. IF No.1 is the truth of the matter, what does that have to say about our receiving Christ as Savior? It goes without saying that a human decision of some sort is involved, does it not?

Let’s get hypothetical again. IF a human decision is involved in the salvation transaction (and let’s assume it is), and IF a strictly human decision would give us reason to boast (prohibited), what does that say about our decision to follow Christ? Does it mean that God is the source of our decision?

Well, IF there are two ‘actors’ in our little scenario, God and a sinner, and IF the sinner can’t take credit for his decision, God, by default, must have brought about the decision. Not only that, God must have done something so powerful that when faced with the truth of the gospel message, the sinner’s greatest desire in this life is to say ‘yes’ to Jesus! What happened?

I think it was a ‘God’ opened heart! We see the perfect example in Acts chapter 16, with the conversion of Lydia in Philippi. Lydia listens to message of the gospel presented by the Apostle Paul, God opens her heart to really pay attention to Paul’s words, and Lydia is saved and baptized. Read the story for yourself.

God opens hearts to hear the gospel in order to save sinners, and God never fails. When sinners with God opened hearts hear their condition in sin, along with God’s solution in Jesus Christ, lost sinners run to the cross!

So there you have one old soldier’s thoughts concerning our starting question “Sinner, save THYSELF?”

I would love to hear comments, thoughts and questions.

The Greatest Work In The World!

By Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe | 1972

There are many good things that a man can do in the world today. But I have a conviction that the greatest work any of us can do is to help lead people to Jesus Christ. You do not have to be a “full-time Christian worker” to be a soul-winner. In fact, many of our greatest soul-winners are dedicated men and women who hold “ordinary” occupations, but who use every opportunity to witness for Christ.

We use the word “soul-winner” so often, and yet I wonder if we really know what it means? Perhaps it would be helpful to us if we discovered from the Bible just what a soul-winner is and what he is supposed to do. As I was studying this subject, I was interested to find many pictures of the soul-winner in the Bible; and I want to share some of these pictures with you.

The soul-winner is a shepherd.

“Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

James is speaking particularly about Christians who may stray from the truth, but his words also apply to the lost. If it is important for us to guide wandering believers back into God’s way, how much more important it is to guide unbelievers! We are shepherds, out seeking the wandering sheep. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). If the lost sheep is left to himself, he will die; and if the lost soul is left to himself, he will perish forever.

Here is one reason society is in a mess: people have strayed from the truth. It was a gradual thing. First men questioned God’s truth; then they criticized it; then they ignored it; then they laughed at it. The world would rather believe lies than face God’s truth, in spite of the fact that these lies are leading men to death.

Jesus told the story about the shepherd who went out into the wilderness to find the lost sheep. What a beautiful picture of the soul-winner!

“But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how black was the night that the Lord went through,
E’er He found His sheep that was lost.”

The most important characteristic for a shepherd is love. The Good Shepherd so loved us that He laid down His life for the sheep. Do we love lost souls enough to search them out and share the Good News with them? Or are we so wrapped up in our own plans that we do not have time to think about the other person? We are supposed to be shepherds who help to guide the wandering back into the fold.

The soul-winner is a hunter.

Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” That word “winneth” has the idea of “catching, as a hunter catches an animal.” We are supposed to “capture” souls!

In many ways, the lost sinner is just like an animal. Jesus said to Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). What is a goad? It is the sharp stick that the farmer uses to prod his lazy animals. God was “prodding” Saul; He was treating Saul like a stubborn animal! The lost sinner is just like a stubborn animal: he wants his own way, and yet he does not realize that his own way leads to death.

Just as it takes love to be a shepherd, so it takes skill to be a hunter. It takes skill to “capture” lost souls. The hunter is careful not to frighten the animal. He is very careful not to permit his scent to be carried to the animal. I wish more Christians were that wise! Too often unsaved people “get the scent” from the church and know all the things that are going wrong! We Christians must be very careful not to get in the way of the wind, but to let the “wind of the Spirit” blow as He desires.

Hunters will use different approaches in capturing animals. Many different kinds of traps are mentioned in the Bible, because you cannot use the same approach with different animals. Too often you and I use the same approach with every lost person, and we wonder why we often fail. It takes skill to be a hunter, and it takes skill to be a successful soul-winner.

The soul-winner is a fisherman.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Christ called four fishermen to be disciples—Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And remember that fishing was not their hobby; it was their life’s work. To them, catching fish was not fun: it was a matter of life or death!

Do you know why Jesus called four fishermen? Because fishermen know how to stick with the job and get it done. You will rarely see a fisherman sitting around doing nothing. He is either casting his nets, or cleaning his nets, or repairing his nets. He is always wrapped up in fishing. So it is with the soul-winner: he is always involved in witnessing—and he stays at it! The most important thing about a fisherman is his ability to stick with it, because fishing can be a very difficult and disappointing vocation.

Too often, we “fishers of men” give up too soon. When the going gets tough, we decide to head for shore and give up fishing for a while. We sit around and discuss fishing instead of heading out to the depths to let down the nets! One preacher has suggested that most Christians have ceased to be fishers of men. Instead, they are owners of beautiful aquariums, and they spend most of their time moving the fish from one tank to another!

In Bible days, fishermen had three methods of fishing: hooks, spears, and nets. Peter let the hook down and caught the fish that contained the money for the taxes. If you plan to use a hook, be sure you have the right kind of bait, and be sure you stay alert so you know when the fish is there! It takes real skill and patience to use the spear, but this is a good way to get fish. Just keep your eye on the one you want, and spear him!

But the best way is the net, because you can catch more fish that way. It requires several men to use the nets; soul-winners must learn how to work together. To be sure, not every “fish” will be a good one. Jesus warns us that the net will contain all kinds of fish, some good and some bad (Matthew 13:47-50); but the presence of the bad fish is no reason for us to reject the good fish. Not every fish we catch for the Lord will be a true believer, but many of them will; and the more we try to catch, the bigger will be the percentage of true believers.

If we are going to bring souls to Christ, we must be like the fishermen that Jesus called: we must have persistence. Only God can give the catch, no matter how hard we may toil. And let’s remember that only God knows how big the catch is! Let’s not get so wrapped up in numbers that we forget how important one individual soul is to Jesus Christ.

The soul-winner is a harvester.

Jesus tells us to “look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35-38). It takes all kinds of workers to have a harvest: people to plow, people to sow and water, people to fight weeds, and people to reap the grain. But all of them are a part of the harvest! This is why soul-winners are compared to harvesters: we need to practice cooperation. Not compromise, but cooperation, a willingness to work together.

There is no end to what God will do for the Christian who does not care who gets the credit. The important thing out in the field is not competing for attention, but reaping the harvest. We are laborers together, and each one must help the other.

God has given us some marvelous tools for harvesting the grain: radio, television, literature, cassettes, computers, and a host of other tools. We are not to use these tools to impress each other, but to gather in the harvest. I fear that too often we harvesters are using the sickles on each other instead of on the grain! It is discouraging to see how one Christian attacks another Christian, or one worker criticizes another worker; and all the time the harvest is going to waste. One of the basic laws of the harvest is partnership: one sows, another reaps, but God gives the increase.

The soul-winner is an ambassador.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Imagine! We are God’s ambassadors! This certainly puts dignity into this business of winning souls! Instead of apologizing when we witness for Christ or make a visit in a home, we ought to act like dedicated dignitaries, sent by God—because that is exactly what we are! “As my Father hath sent Me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

As ambassadors, we have been chosen and commissioned; and our task is not to preach ourselves, but to represent the One Who sent us. “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). We represent Him, and we carry His message of peace. When an ambassador is sent to a foreign country, all his needs are met by his government, and he is protected by their armies. So with us: God has promised to meet all our needs, and His protection is our assurance of victory. All that the government asks is that the ambassador be faithful, and that is what God asks of us.

God is not at war with the world, but the world is at war with God. Our task as ambassadors is to tell the world that God loves sinners, Christ died for sinners, and that men can be reconciled to God. One of these days, God will declare war on the world; but before that happens, He will call His ambassadors home! While we are waiting, let’s be faithful ambassadors, representing Jesus Christ in the way we live and the words we speak.

The soul winner is a fireman.

“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23). “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2).

The lost soul does not have to die to be in the fire; he is in the fire of condemnation right now! “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). Lost people are already living in the “suburbs of hell,” yet they think their life is wonderful! Our task is to pull them out of the fire, because they are unable to save themselves. In other words, soul-winning requires urgency.

Perhaps this is why many Christians avoid trying to win souls: it is a bit risky to put your hands in the fire! Certainly soul-winners get “burned” occasionally but it’s worth a few scars to rescue somebody from eternal fire. Sometimes the situation gets a bit “hot,” but we must keep right on witnessing, because God may use us to snatch some precious soul out of the burning. And God has promised to be with us when we go through the fire, so there is really nothing to fear.

The next time you look at a lost soul, remember that he is already in the fire of sin and judgment. The worst is yet to come! Sin has so numbered him that he does not even feel the pains in his soul, and this is what makes his situation so tragic. Oh, the urgency of it! We must reach into the fire and help to pull them out! As those angels took hold of Lot and pulled him to safety out of Sodom, so we must lovingly snatch the brands out of the burning, before it is too late.

The soul-winner is a witness.

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? And shall He not render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).

The picture here takes us back to an Old Testament Jewish village. Here is a man who has been condemned to die. The elders are taking him outside the village to stone him to death, and you see the man as they go by. And you know that the man does not deserve to die! You have the one piece of evidence that will save his life! What are you going to do?

Some of us might say: “Well, I don’t want to get involved.” Or, “It’s too late to do anything now.” Or, “Who am I to tell others what to do?” God says, “Excuses! Excuses that will cost a man his life!” As soul-winners, you and I must be witnesses who have honest concern. It must burden us that men and women are being dragged off to judgment! It must concern us that we have the one message of life that can save them! The time has come for us to stop making excuses! Christ has left us here to be His witnesses, and our witness is the only thing that can save sinners from eternal death!

What does it take to be an effective soul-winner? It takes the love of a shepherd, the skill of a hunter, the cooperation of a harvester, the dignity of an ambassador, the urgency of a fireman, and the heart concern of a witness.

Let’s ask God to make us the kind of Christians that He can use to win others to Christ. Winning souls is the greatest work in the world—the most rewarding work in the world—the work that God blesses and that brings Him glory for all eternity!

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“Copyright © Moody Church Media. Used with Permission. www.moodymedia.org

The Most Precious Golden Chain?

The Battle Cry

Do you like gold chains? Most, if not all of us, certainly do. Go to a jewelry store and you’ll find a wide variety of them, different styles designed for various uses, for both men and women. Am I right? That’s a rhetorical question. Personally, I don’t have any because I’m just not into jewelry. Some men are; just ask Mr. T (remember him?)! Our oldest son, when he was about 4 years old, just about had a fit when he say what I called a ‘Mr. T Starter Kit’ and Mom didn’t want to buy it for him.

Nevertheless,. There is one Golden Chain that many believers (if not most of us), aren’t all that fond of. It’s the Golden Chain of Redemption and it’s found in Romans 8, Verse 29-30:

“For those who he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…

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“How do I know if I have been predestined to be saved?”–by Jesse Johnson

This is an excellent article by Jesse Johnson that was posted at The Cripplegate.

How do I know if I have been predestined to be saved?

by Jesse Johnson

How does a person know if they have been predestined by God for heaven? The shortest answer to the question is also the best: Do you love Jesus? If so, then you have been predestined.

Unpacking that short answer shows you the Trinitarian nature of salvation. The Father predestined us before time (Ephesians 1:4). This predestination is expressed through adoption into his family through faith in his Son, Jesus (Ephesians 1:5). This faith is expressed by confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:10), and nobody can do that unless the Holy Spirit is indwelling them (1 Corinthians 12:3).

When the Holy Spirit saves a person, He gives them a new nature—He gives them a heart of faith to replace their heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). The person goes from living for himself to living for Christ. The person goes from hating God to loving God through Jesus.

Thus an individual knows they have been predestined for salvation only when they believe the gospel, and see in their heart faith and love for Jesus Christ. 

Taken together, our Triune God predestines, then sends his Son who accomplishes salvation, then sends his Spirit who applies salvation. All three persons of the Trinity are at work in our salvation. They have the same will, the same love, and the same intent. Thus the doctrine of predestination breaks into this world through every heart that loves Jesus.

A person obviously doesn’t need to know all that in order to be saved. Instead, what a person needs to know in order to be saved is that they are a sinner, and are unable to save themselves by their own good work. Yet Jesus, who is the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, and rose triumphantly from the grave having atoned for sin. Because of depravity, nobody would savingly believe that unless the Holy Spirit was enabling them.

To approach this from yet another direction: a person can only know if they have been predestined when they are saved, and salvation is evident in a love for Christ. That love is imperfect, and waxes and wanes through life, of course. But the only window we have into the saving and predestining power of God in the heart of each person who trusts Christ. There is no way to trust Christ for salvation without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, He only saves those whom the Father has chosen, and all whom He saves will express that through a love for Jesus.

How do you know you have been predestined? The only way is by placing your faith in Christ.

Fortunately the opposite answer is not true—a person cannot say they have not been predestined simply because they don’t believe in Jesus now. Who is to say they won’t believe in the future? So if you are concerned you have not been predestined, ask yourself this: Do you want to believe the gospel? Do you wish you were going to heaven?

Then there is no magic to it, and no fatalism needs be involved. All who call upon the Lord can be saved. And once saved, they will see they were called by Him all along.

So Great a Salvation

From The Cripplegate

“I am a Christian.” “I am saved.” “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.” 

I wonder if we grasp the fullness of what that means. Though we cannot know all the fullness of salvation until we are with the Lord, Scripture escorts us in to the beginnings of salvation’s glory. Truly, ours is a great salvation. 

The diagram above and list below briefly describes actual, historical expressions of God’s sovereign grace. Above is a historical timeline of God’s loving grace in the salvation of a Christian. We can kind of think of it like our biography, but it’s stuff God did for us, before we were born, after, and still after. These 16 aspects of salvation are 16 marks of God’s work in redemptive history. They are expressions of God’s love towards the Christian. They are each a river flowing from God’s sovereignty combining in the deluge of God’s grace to those in Jesus Christ.

The following is a brief description of our great salvation. As we consider our salvation, let us recall that, regardless of what we are going through, nothing can rob us of any of these aspects of God’s love in salvation.

In Eternity Past

Prior to creating all things, God architected his plan of salvation.

1. Election (Rom. 8:29-30, Eph. 1:3-6).

Before God made the universe by the power of his word, he chose for himself a people who would receive the gift of salvation. He did so, not motivated by any merit or action of the recipients (for they were not yet created and would only sin), but based solely upon his own will for his glory.

After Creation, at the Cross

Christ accomplished critical aspects of our salvation when he died on the cross.

2. Atonement (Eph. 1:7).

God the Father decided to redeem a sinful people and set his love upon elect sinners whom he had predestined for salvation before he made all things. Consequently, he sent his Son to quench his judicial wrath aroused by their sin. The punishment and penalty that the elect deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of them, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

3. Propitiation (Rom. 3:26, 1 John 4:10).

Propitiation refers to the act where God’s righteous wrath is appeased or turned aside by the death of His Son on the cross. As such, it is a supreme act of love on the part of the Father and Son. If there is a God of justice who redeems a people who are imperfect, then salvation and forgiveness can thereby only occur through propitiation. All such systems which propose a theory of forgiveness and salvation, and yet do not feature an impeccable propitiatory sacrifice, break down and offer at best a fictitious salvation.

The Moment You Become a Christian

Many glorious things happen to us, in time, the moment that we become a Christian.

4. Effectual Call (John 6:44, Eph. 4:1).

The moment in time at which God applies his work of salvation. God will effectually call to salvation all whom he has predestined before creation for salvation. All whom God elects, he will effectually call to salvation such that they will be saved.

5. Regeneration (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5).

Regeneration answers the question, “How can individuals dead in sin, unable and unwilling to please God, respond to the gospel?” Regeneration, or the new birth, is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in which He changes the spiritual nature of a person, bringing him from death to life. It is the beginning of all true heart change, as it is a change of nature. It results in a life of ongoing transformation (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification).

6. Faith (Eph. 1:13, 2:8-9).

Faith is the gift of God that enables the elect to believe what He says, to trust Him with our lives, and to live upon His Word. Apart from regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for someone to repent and put faith in Christ. Similarly, when God regenerates a person, it is impossible for that person not to repent and put faith in Christ. Regeneration is the act of God alone. But faith is technically not the act of God. The ability to believe is a gift of God in regeneration. But it is not God who puts faith in Christ. It is the regenerate sinner. Faith is the God-appointed means by which the benefits of God’s saving work are appropriated.

7. Repentance (Mark 1:15, Acts 11:18).

Repentance is the gift of God that enables the sinner to turn from sin and self in order to turn to God. It involves a real change of heart/mind that results in a change of life.

8. Justification (Rom. 3:24-28, 5:1).

Justification answers the question, “How can condemned, guilty sinners stand righteous before a holy God?” Appropriated by faith alone, it is the legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the nature of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. It is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer.

9. Imputation (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 5:19, 2 Cor. 5:21).

Imputation can be thought of as a subset of justification; of God’s justifying work on behalf of the sinner. It is God’s act of placing one person’s sin or righteousness upon another’s account in a manner which does not violate justice. Adam’s sin was imputed or transferred to all humanity. The believer’s sin was placed upon the account of Jesus when He was crucified. Christ’s righteousness is placed on the account of the believer. Thus, the believer’s sin was reckoned to Christ, and the Savior’s perfect obedience was reckoned to the believer.

10. Redemption (Col. 1:14).

Redemption is purchasing someone’s freedom. It speaks of a transfer of ownership by payment. The sinner is freed from his enslavement to sin and from the curse of God’s law by Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death on the cross. Christ does not redeem us from Satan, but from the just wrath of God. Upon regeneration, every elect sinner is freed from the slavery to sin and the penalty of the law.

11. Adoption (Eph. 1:5).

Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, subsequent to the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. Adoption is permanent. The elect, regenerate sinner will never be disowned from God’s family because his adoption depends on the irrevocable saving work of Jesus Christ—in his substitutionary atoning work on the cross. There is no more privileged place to be than all the universe than a child of God.

12. Reconciliation (Col. 1:22).

Reconciliation is the restoration of the relationship between God and man. It includes a change in man’s attitude toward God. Man is brought from being at enmity with God to friendship and sonship. God’s righteous anger is turned aside by the cross of Jesus, thereby removing the offense of sin and making it possible for God to bring man into fellowship with him.

13. Union with Christ (Rom. 6:5).

Union with Christ is the biblical description of the believer’s relationship to his Savior. By faith, the believer embraces Jesus as presented in the gospel. God unites the believer spiritually to Jesus as his Mediator. This personal connection to Jesus is the source of all the believer’s privileges. All that Christ accomplished for the believer is shared by virtue of this unbreakable union. The regenerate can no more be fractured from Christ than Christ himself can be split in two.

From Regeneration until Death/Presence with Christ

Two additional aspects of our salvation occur from regeneration until we are with Christ.

14. Sanctification (John 15:2, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 2:12-13).

This is a glorious process where God transforms the regenerate into the most wonderful Person in the universe. Consequent of regeneration, the believer is daily conformed in thought, worship, motivation, and deed by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. As the regenerate engages in Scripture, prayer, the local church, and God’s providence, the Holy Spirit transforms him progressively into the image of Christ.

15. Perseverance (Phil. 1:6).

The regenerate will not fall away from his relationship to God. Rather, he will endure until the end and go to heaven. All who are elect will end up in heaven. Jesus will not lose even one of the Father’s elect. The golden-chain of salvation, as it is often coined, means that the elect are as good as glorified. God finishes what he begins. Those who appear not to persevere were never regenerate notwithstanding a previous appearance of belief.

From Death/Presence with Christ to Eternity Future

The final step of our salvation occurs once we enter the presence of Christ.

16. Glorification (Rom. 8:29-30, 1 John 3:2).

Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step of his rescue that comes when, in heaven, he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed into a sinless being. Upon death, the elect will be permanently rid of sin. The battle with sin will be over. Glorification will mean the inability to ever be contrary to God in motivation, thought, nature, desire, word, and deed. We will be unable to sin. We will only perfectly obey God’s law in fullness; perfectly loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, perfectly considering others more important than ourselves. 

Conclusion

This is not all that could be said about our great salvation. But, these touch on the wonder of God’s sovereign love towards every single one of his children. Considering that all believers entered this world dead in sin, hostile towards God, and loving unrighteousness, this 16-fold grace of God teeters on the edge of blasphemy. It veers close to a shameful scandal that such wretched sinners would be the recipients such titanic love. Nevertheless, this is the case. A Christian is someone who can say, “By the grace of God, I am saved.”

Dear Christian, is our salvation not great?! Are these not reasons to lift our chin up? We are saved!

Is this not cause to keep going during our brief sojourning when it feels like we can go no farther? We are saved!

Are these not reasons to press forward in a dreadful world that pushes back? We are saved!

Is this not cause to walk in hope?! We are saved!

Glory to God! We are saved!