About Dan C.

Retired U.S. Army Special Forces SGM (28 years). Also retired from a 2d career 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.

The REST of the Verse – Revelation 3:20

It’s been said by some biblical scholars that the three most important rules for a proper and thorough understanding of the text of Scripture are Context, Context, & Context. By that we mean:

· The immediate context in a section or chapter of Scripture

· The larger context of a particular book in the Bible

· The broad context of the entire Bible and God’s plan for his children

I freely admit that some passages of Scripture can be valuable in and of themselves as precious promises, words of comfort, or even admonition or warning. They can also be used to ‘prove’ one’s personal opinion or preferred interpretation. Examining context can therefore be not only profitable, but at times harmful.

With that said, let’s examine Revelation 3:20.

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Is there is anyone among those who profess to be believers in Christ who doesn’t know that passage? For decades it’s been a favorite passage to use when leading someone to Christ. The explanation goes something like this:

Jesus is standing forlornly at the door of your heart, wanting to come in and dine with you, but you must open the door! There is but one door latch and it’s on the inside, where you live, and Jesus can’t enter no matter how desperately He wants to!

I even heard a local pastor one Sunday, whose sermon was about Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall and city gates, tell the congregation of several hundred that there was one gate that God could not open, the door to the human heart. I also cannot dispute that there have been many genuine decisions for Christ after hearing about the ‘one-way door’.

We are not concerned so much with what we think it means or what we might want it to say, but only what it is actually telling us in the three contexts mentioned above (chapter, book, the entire Bible). We can ask a few simple questions to accomplish our goal.

1. What is the passage about?

Revelation, Chapter 3 is a continuation of Chapters 1 & 2, in which the Apostle John, in a vision on the Lord’s day, was commanded to record what he saw and write letters to seven churches about what he saw. Our passage is from one of those letters to one of those churches:

Revelation 3:14-20

14“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (ESV)

Does the actual context in which we find Revelation 3:20 paint a picture of Jesus knocking on the door of an unbeliever’s heart, or is Jesus knocking on the door of a lukewarm church that seems to have evicted Him from the premises? Is it a passage inviting unbelievers to Christ or is it about waking up a lukewarm church?

Should we invite our unsaved loved ones and friends to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? By all means! Our chief calling as believers is to share Christ with the lost world around us!

2. Who can open the heart of an unbeliever?

The story of a woman named Lydia in Acts 16 gives us a clue:

“And on the Sabbath day we (Paul and his co-workers) went out of the city (Philippi) to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” 15And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.” (Acts 16:13-15)

One thing is certain. No one is saved whose heart remains closed to the message of the gospel. Perhaps rather than asking someone to “open their heart”, we should pray as we seek to evangelize the lost around us, that God opens hearts to hear what we have to say. Our duty is to be faithful to the message of the gospel and trust God to save those whose hearts he has prepared to hear it.

3. Is there a wider application with lessons for us today?

Well, the book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John to seven churches in Asia to prepare them for the second coming of Christ to Earth. God sent an angel to tell John what to write. Part of that consisted of seven specific letters to seven specific churches that can be said to exemplify churches in our day.

The church in Laodicea seems to have been ‘resting on its laurels’:

17Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—18I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18)

Are there churches today that are ‘resting on their laurels’, thinking that they are well off because they have all sorts of programs, professional sounding worship bands, light shows, the best that technology has to offer to appeal to folks in the theater seats? Facebook is filled with advertisements telling us how to ‘grow’ our churches using the best that our high tech world has to offer. Do we need let Jesus back in? Just questions and food for thought.

So regardless of what you have believed about Revelation 3:20, now you have. . .

. . .the REST of the verse!

Be Blessed!

What Does it mean to Come to Christ?


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Before we take a closer look at it really means to “come” to Christ, we need to realize that the term “come” must be understood spiritually and not carnally. We know this because the Bible tells us that our natural mind is actually hostile to God:

Rom 8:7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Rom 8:7)

The Bible also tells us that the natural man is unable to understand spiritual matters:

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)

Our coming to Christ not merely a matter of obeying God’s commandments, attending a Church service, going to a Bible study, listening to Christian music, or even reading the Bible. Anyone can do all of those things. Genuine coming to Christ is a spiritual matter.

With that understanding, we, can now try and describe our “coming” to Christ. To paraphrase John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress author John Bunyan described it as a “moving of the mind towards him”, from “a sound sense of the absolute want that a man has of him (Christ) for his justification and salvation.”

In simpler terms, when a person realizes his/her spiritually lost condition in sin, and that justification and salvation are only to be found in Christ, that person willingly comes to Christ. Coming to Christ involves both the will and the heart. So how can we describe those who genuinely come to Christ? Consider these evidences:

· They come with prayers, supplications and tears, demonstrating their heartfelt need for mercy.

“With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:9)

  • They ‘run’ to Christ, fleeing the wrath to come. Realizing their desperate condition in sin and that Christ is the only way of escape, they fly to safety as fast as they can. (Matt 3:7; Psa 143:9).
  • A genuine coming to Christ is marked by a clear sense of an absolute need of Jesus Christ to save and evident from the outcries of those even as they are coming to him. Consider the following examples:

PETER WALKING ON WATER

“But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” . (Matthew 14:30)

PETER PREACHING AT PENTECOST

“Now when they (the crowd) heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

  • A genuine coming to Christ is accompanied by an honest and sincere forsaking everything to follow him.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

The above examples describe all those who have, or are coming to Christ.  Anyone genuinely coming to Christ for salvation casts leaves everything behind and forsaking all to follow Christ. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer so eloquently said in his book The Cost of Discipleship:

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die”

When we glance at today’s evangelical environment, we can see example after example of invitations to come to Christ for a multitude of reasons focused on what we mortals desire most in this life (our best lives now), rather than what God has done for us in sending his Son do die for our sins. Some have called them “adventures in missing the gospel.”

Anyone who truly comes to Christ comes because of being spiritually awakened to the reality of their sin, the dire consequences of it, and the reality that Jesus Christ is the only escape from the just wrath of God.

My desire is that everyone who reads this has truly come to Christ and is faithfully serving him in whatever vocation they find themselves. If not……..clip_image004

Fully Equipped!

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If we were to break that down into outline form we could say that Scripture is:

1. Breathed out (inspired) by God and given to man

2. Profitable for:

  • Teaching
  • Reproof (proof or conviction)
  • Correction
  • Training in righteousness

3. So that:

  • The man of God may be complete
  • The man of God is fully equipped for every good work

Rather straightforward and easily understood, is it not? Scripture contains everything anyone might need to live a godly life and faithfully serve our God.

While I was serving in the Army, there were several stages to becoming ‘fully’ equipped. The first stage was at the reception station when I enlisted. Once assigned to a Special Forces unit after initial training (basic & advanced), stage 2 kicked in and there was another set of equipment given to all new members of the unit. Then, after being assigned to a specific operational detachment (‘A Team), another set of specialized equipment was issued, depending on the specific mission of the Team (mountain, scuba, HALO, Special Wpns, etc.), and the specific position to be manned on the Team (medical, demolitions, communications, weapons, etc.).

I’m sure you could discover the same ‘equipping for performance’ principal exists for most jobs, for every sort of occupation, in every labor sector. Do you see the glaring comparison between Scripture’s sufficiency for equipping the man of God for every good work in the Kingdom and what’s be needed for earthy vocations? What a blessing God has provided his children!

Another point to be made here is that our passages tells us that being fully equipped for Christian service is connected in some way to all of scripture. That statement brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s assurance the Ephesian Christians that he had preached to them the whole counsel of God.

“. . .for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:2, ESV)

One Bible teacher suggests that what Paul meant was “ I told you all the important things that God has revealed that you must know for your salvation and service to Him.” We are not told everything there is about God or in the mind of God – we are finite and he is infinite. There is no way we could handle everything about God or all of his thoughts!

So what? How can we best apply what that passage teaches us? There are two things that present themselves to this old soldiers ‘brain housing group’, especially as we look around and thoughtfully consider today’s evangelical landscape.

Concerning Scripture itself, while other sources can help us tremendously in our Christian walk in this life, if all we had was the Bible, it would be enough. I don’t know about you, but my Facebook page is literally filled with links to and offers for every kind of Christian source imaginable. We’re talking about churches (local and otherwise), Christian discipleship material, along with concerts and events, not to mention Christian apparel and all sorts of trinkets.

Concerning all of Scripture and the whole counsel of God, It grieves me to see so many memes and images of Bible passages ripped completely out of context that, while they might give us ‘warm fuzzies’, complete miss the fuller meaning that the author intended. Then there is contemporary Christian music (CCM). It tends to mostly be about the positive aspects of Christian life, either focused on blessings, what God purposes to give us as his main reason for being, omitting topics which might not be very popular, like sin, wrath, and judgment. If you doubt that, compare a few classic hymns of the church to CCM. Feel free to challenge me.

Lastly, there’s the content of much of what is presented from pulpits and stages from ‘sea to shining sea’ these days. While there some church leaders who preach and teach in an expository manner from the pages of Scripture, they are in the minority these days. Additionally, much of what we hear these days, whether topical or focused on teaching the text at hand (expository) seems to be man-focused than God centered.

Please note that I am not being intentionally critical, but personal observations. I don’t intend to be argumentative, but like I already mentioned, certain things grieve me, or should I say grieve the spirit living me.

If there are any lessons to be learned from what is written here, they are two-fold.

First, spend more time reading and studying your own Bible than every other source that comes your way promising to teach you the ‘real deal’ concerning Scripture.

Secondly, be selective concerning your preferred sources of preaching and teaching. That also includes Christian music. After all, music both preaches and teaches.

Not only do we want to receive all of what God has to say to us, we want what God offers to us to fill our hearts and minds.

Be Blessed!

Book Review: Studies on Saving Faith – A. W. Pink

The introduction to this book at Monergism.com, states the following:

clip_image002One of the most helpful books we have ever read on the gospel. Pink’s deep understanding of the nature of regeneration and how that relates to faith and works is top notch. Pink levels the serious and solemn charge that much “evangelistic” preaching falls short on delivering the true gospel message. He states, “The ‘evangelism’ of the day is not only superficial to the last degree, but it is radically defective. It is utterly lacking a foundation on which to base an appeal for sinners to come to Christ. There is not only a lamentable lack of proportion (the mercy of God being made far more prominent than His holiness, His love than His wrath), but there is a fatal omission of that which God has given for the purpose of imparting a knowledge of sin. There is not only a reprehensible introducing of ‘bright singing,’ humorous witticisms and entertaining anecdotes, but there is a studied omission of the dark background upon which alone the Gospel can effectually shine forth.” Whether you are a preacher or a layperson, this remarkably relevant study in Scripture will challenge you to hold firmly to the Gospel.

I’ve just finished my first reading and I have to say that I was blessed beyond measure in ways too numerous to mention in this article. The book proper is divided into four parts; Part I – Signs of the Times (Introduction), Part II – Saving Faith, Part III – Coming to Christ, and Part IV – Assurances. Parts I – IV are divided into logical and easily understandable subsections and thoroughly supported from Scripture.

Sometime after completing his most thorough treatment on saving faith, he decided to further amplify one or two of the leading points with the hope that some might be helped thereby, in the form of four dialogues. The simulated, but completely relevant and believable dialogues, between ‘The Writer’ and two gentlemen, ‘Mr. Carnal Confidence’ and ‘Mr. Humble Heart’, actually summarize the entire content of the earlier parts of the book, expressed in language quite familiar to early 20th century readers, yet at the same time easily understood today.

I found the dialogues to be not only an amplification of the book proper, but an excellent summary of its entire contents. I highly encourage you to read not only the book proper, but also the Dialogues. You will be blessed!

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Studies on Saving Faith is available for download without cost at Monergism.com and the Members Only section of the Christian Military Fellowship Website here, and also available for purchase at Amazon.com, as well as from numerous Christ book distributors.

Prevailing Views of the Atonement of Christ

This is one of those articles this writer has put together in order to have a clear and logical understanding of the two principal views of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of men. Such an endeavor helps me to maintain a consistent understanding of the topic at hand, not only in my own mind, but it also helps me greatly in communicating what I believe to others. As Christians, being able to articulate why we believe what we believe is spiritually enriching, while at the same time extremely helpful when discussing biblical topics with other believers and unbelievers alike. On to the topic at hand – the two prevailing views of the Atonement!

There is very little doubt among Christians that, In his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ became the atonement, or sacrifice for the sins of mortal men. The Bible tells us that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood, in both the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 16 & Hebrews 9). In the OT, atonement for sin was accomplished by the Jewish High Priests through the periodic sacrificing of ceremonially clean animals. In the New Testament, we are presented with the once for all atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the pure Lamb of God who lived a perfect life on behalf of all who repent of sin and believe the gospel.

Having established that belief in Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of men, we can ask the crucial question: Did Christ die to merely make the salvation possible for those who repent and believe, or to actually guarantee their salvation? To try and answer that question, let us turn to what has been referred to as The Golden Chain of Salvation recorded in Romans 8:29-30:

29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

If you are asking “How do those two verses answer our question?”, you are asking the right question! Those two verses didn’t come to be called The Golden Chain of Salvation on a whim or by accident. The actually present to us the logical flow of the process of salvation, or how God saves men. We are told that those who are saved are those God first of all “foreknew”, followed by their “predestination”, calling”, justification”, and glorification.”

The key to answering our question concerning the prevailing views of the Atonement lies in the definition of the phrase “those whom he (God) foreknew”. It goes without saying that those who are “foreknown” by God are ultimately “glorified” in their salvation. It is also significant that everything that God does in these passages is expressed in the past tense – just something for you to ponder. What does it mean that God “foreknew”? There are two distinct possibilities, and possibly only two.

By itself, the term “foreknew” means literally “knew beforehand”. In our context, that seems to indicate that God either knew personally those who would be saved, or he knew something that would do at some point in time.

By far, the prevailing view in modern evangelicalism is that God, who knows the beginning from the end, knows all of the future actions of all men, and decided to save those who he knew would, at some point in time, hear the gospel message and come to believe in Christ as Savior of their own natural free will.

The other, less popular view, is that God knew beforehand those He would save in a personal way, not because they were somehow ‘better’ than others, or because he knew what they would do at some future point in time. We see a beautiful example of this view in God’s choosing of Israel for deliverance from bondage in Egypt:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

God didn’t choose Israel because of how great a nation it was or anything they might accomplish in the future. He had made a covenant with Abraham to eventually become a great nation out of which would come His Messiah that would impact all the nations of the world. In like manner, God, also in eternity past, set his love upon and chose all those he would deliver from the bondage of sin through His Messiah.

The last question we can ask is “What exactly does Romans passage actually say?” The text says “for those whom he (God) foreknew”, a personal pronoun. God knew specific individuals he would bring to salvation. The term “knew” used in the text is the same word God used when he called the Prophet Jeremiah:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

As a final check, I examined over 15 different translations. All but three used the same phrase “I knew you. Two used the phrase “I chose you” and one used the phrase “I selected you”. As a matter of curiosity, I also checked the The Message (MSG) Bible, which claims to be a translation but is, at best, an ‘interesting’ paraphrase. The MSG used the phrase “I knew all about you”, which could support the most popular view of the Atonement, described earlier in this article.

To summarize, there are two main views of the Atonement of Christ. The most popular of the two is that God knew the future decisions of all men and chose for salvation those he knew would choose him of their own free will. The less popular view is that God knew personally, and set his love upon those he would save, and as a matter of sovereign grace, determined to bring them to salvation.

So what?

First of all, both views cannot be correct. Which is most faithful to the text of Scripture? Which do you believe and why? Does one’s view of the Atonement affect how we evangelize – how we share the gospel? Should it?

I won’t share my answers to those questions. After all, my intention in trying to make sense of it all was not to convince anyone of my opinion of the matter. Perhaps another article will address how views of the Atonement impact our evangelistic efforts.

Feel free to comment and let me know if you think I did what I set out to do – properly present the two main views of Christ’s Atonement.

“He Will Save His People from their Sins”

It’s a familiar story. When Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father discovered that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant and he was not the father, he considered divorcing her quietly. An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and spoke these words:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” ( Matthew 1:20-21)

But I digress. The question that has most frequently occupied my mind of late is “Who exactly are his people? Glaringly obvious, from the very words of the angel who spoke to Joseph, is the term “his”, a possessive pronoun meaning that those whom Jesus will save are his possessions – they belong to him. What else do we know from Scripture about those whom Jesus saves – his people? The rest of this post will highlight , drawing primarily from John’s gospel.

  • All whom Jesus saves were chosen by the Father for salvation.
  • Jesus saves those given to him by the Father.
  • Jesus calls those the Father gives him my sheep.’
  • Jesus will save all those whom the Father has given him – each and every one of his sheep.
  • Jesus continually intercedes before the Father on behalf of his people, those whom the Father has given him, but not for the whole world.

First of all, we are all quite familiar with God’s choosing a special people as his own, for his own glory, beginning with the Old Testament account and the Jewish nation of Israel. The Apostle Paul, called by God to bring the gospel message to the Gentile nations, mentions God’s choosing in at least two of his letters to churches in his time:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

13But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, . 14To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Second, we know that those Jesus saves were given to him by the Father because of Jesus’ own words:

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”( John 6:37-39)

Third, note that it is also in Jesus own words that we find out that those he saves are his ‘sheep’. Speaking to unbelieving Jews in the Temple at Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication, Jesus refers to those the Father has given him as his ‘sheep’

27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

Fourth, if we look at portions of the above passages one more time, we can see that all of those given to the Son – his sheep – come savingly to the Son and are granted everlasting life.

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”( John 6:37-39)

27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

Lastly, in High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus interceded specifically for his people, those the Father has given him, but not for the whole world:

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. . . .

6 I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

12While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

In summary, we have stated that the purpose for Jesus birth, death and resurrection was “to save his people from their sins.” We then discussed just a few of the attributes, or characteristics of “his people”. The people whom Jesus saves are:

  • chosen by the Father for salvation,
  • given to Jesus by the Father,
  • those that Jesus calls his sheep, and
  • are those for whom Jesus continually intercedes before the Father.

We also stated, from Scripture, that ALL who are chosen for salvation, given by the Father to the Son as his sheep, and who are the object of Jesus’ intercession before the Father WILL be saved from their sins. and live eternally in His presence.

So What? Here’s some food for thought/questions for consideration:

  1. Is salvation limited to “His people”, as defined in this article, or are there some who are not “His people” who can be saved? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and explain your answer.
  2. If Jesus will only save “His people”, what would that mean concerning the extent of Christ’s atonement?
  3. What does this article tell you about the sovereignty of God in salvation?

For a biblical summary of HOW God saves someone, read Romans 8:28-31.

May God bless your study of His Word!

Forty Good Soldiers for Christ!

clip_image002This article was first published in the April 2007 Christian Report. It describes a tale of 40 Christian martyrs from the 4th Century, as well as a group of more modern warriors for Christ.

Sebaste, Cappadocia (now Sivas in Turkey) – March, 320 A.D.

Roman Emperor Valerius Licinius had already ordered that all Christians in Cappadocia abandon their faith and worship pagan gods, including every member of the famous “Thundering” 12th Legion, whose record in combat was unparalleled in the annals of the Imperial Army! Forty soldiers of the Legion however, refused to recant their faith, declaring before a military tribunal (court-martial) that they would devote their love to God and only God!

Agricolas, Captain of the Legion ad the local pagan governor, would not humor this obstinacy. When imprisonment of the whole stubborn company could not break them, he decided on a novel sort of pressure.

It was a bitterly cold March and the pond outside the city was frozen over. The governor, therefore, ordered that the 40 be herded out to the center of the lake stark naked and allowed to rethink their decision. Meanwhile, he set up on the shore statues of the gods to be worshipped, a nice fire, and a pleasant warm bath. He hoped that the offer of warmth might change the minds of the freezing men and induce them to apostatize. But the prisoners retained their solidarity. Together they prayed, “Lord, we are 40 who are engaged in this conflict; grant that we may not fall short of that sacred number.”

During the three days of their lethal exposure, only one of the group gave up, stumbled towards the shore and sought the comfort of one of the hot baths provided for any who would recant their faith. The same hot bath that rewarded his apostasy also brought about his death. Ironically, the sudden heat was too much after the long chill, and he died of shock.

Although the soldier-victims were saddened by this defection, their prayer was heard. Aglaios, a jailer watching the horrifying spectacle of the freezing soldiers had heard their shouts of “40 soldiers for Christ!” when they first headed out across the frozen lake, and now heard a fainter shout, ‘Thirty-nine soldiers for Christ!”

What happened in the heart of the jailer Aglaios at that moment, only he and God will ever know. He wrenched off his own armor and girdle, and dashed to the edge of the lake. There, after lifting his right hand and crying, “Forty good soldiers for Christ!” he disappeared over the ice and into the darkness.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. . . .

Colorado Springs, CO – 1 March 2007

A small group of soldiers from the 10th Special Forces Group gathered at Red Rock Canyon in Colorado Springs for a ‘spiritual fitness’ run and induction of Christian warriors into ‘The Order of the Cappadocian Martyrs,’ led by 10th Group Chaplains Darren Chester and Terry McBride.

It was a cold, windy, and icy morning after a late snowfall from the previous afternoon and evening left a few inches of new snow on the ground and a lot of dangerous ice on streets and roadways. While such conditions sometimes cause outdoor physical fitness training to be cancelled, there would be no change of plans on this morning! The announcement of, and invitation to the event had stated, in part:

“Note: Weather will not affect this run. If you can get there, we will run. Yes, it will be cold. That is the point. The martyrs for whom this order is named froze to death naked on a pond in the course of 3 days. If they can do that for Jesus, surely we can stand an hour or so in the cold.”

The event was scheduled to begin at 0630 sharp. The rendezvous point was a snow-covered public parking lot just off of highway 24, heading west out of the city proper. As soldiers arrived, they remained in their vehicles rather than stand in the biting wind any earlier than necessary. At the appointed time, they gathered around the map of the canyon at the edge of the parking lot for the route briefing given by Chaplain Chester. After the briefing, they headed into the small canyon, along a trail that gradually climbed in altitude for nearly a mile. After winding their way through the canyon for 2-1/2 miles, they gathered at the end of the run at another spot in the canyon, a flat open area near a small frozen pond.

Chaplain Chester spoke to the group, relating the story of the 40 martyrs from Sebaste who died on a frozen lake so long ago, not only refusing to recant their faith, but proclaiming their faith to the cold bitter end! The men were encouraged to stand firm no matter what they faced in this life, especially the persecution that all believers face at times when they live righteously before God and in an unbelieving world.

Each member of the group was given a patch symbolizing the martyrs of the “Thundering” XII Legion, Special Forces warriors of today, and emblazoned with a golden Cross of Christ against the canopy of a deployed parachute, a Green Beret, and the crossed arrows. Each man also received a small card on which was printed the following oath of allegiance:

“I am a Soldier for the Lord Jesus Christ. I am prepared to speak any word, do any deed, and go anywhere As He leads Me. His will is my mission. When the enemy attacks I will Stand firm. When tempted I will persevere. When persecuted I will not forsake my Lord. I will do good to those who hate me, I will bless those who curse me, I will pray for those who mistreat me. Though pressured I am not crushed. Though perplexed I am not in despair. Though persecuted I am not abandoned.. Though struck down I am not destroyed. I will always carry the death of Jesus in my body, that the life of Jesus may be revealed in my body.”

One can only imagine what the response of the mighty host of heaven was when the sound of earthly warriors’ voices joined as one in allegiance to the Lord of Hosts and filled the air of a small canyon on a cold windy morning!

The short ceremony concluded with the men in a circle, arms around each other’s shoulders and heads bowed as Chaplain McBride closed in prayer. Certainly this was an event to be followed by more similar occasions, as more warriors of the 10th Special Forces Group step forward in faith and join this ‘Band of Brothers!’

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This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded here.  The Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to  helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces  grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.

Are WE Tilting at Windmills?

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If you don’t know, the phrase ‘tilting at windmills’ comes from a 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes titled “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”, or just “Don Quixote”. Don Quixote was a middle-aged Spanish nobleman, who imagined himself a Knight of the Spanish realm who embarked on a number of adventurous crusades against windmills that dotted the landscape of southern Spain that he sincerely believed were enemy giants with huge arms! The “tilting” refers to what we would more commonly call “jousting”. Armed with his lance, clad in an old suit of armor, and accompanied by a neighboring farmer (turned squire) named Sancho, the Man of La Mancha set off in defense of the realm.

During one of their exploits, they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills in their path. No sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

Even though Sancho tried to explain that they were just windmills and the huge “arms” were only sails in the wind, the Don lowered his lance and attacked, with disastrous results when the tip of his lance was caught up by a windmill blade!

To this day, the phrase “tilting at windmills” has been used to describe “confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications.” (American Heritage Dictionary) Another phrase, “chasing windmills” has the same roots and mean pursuing something with an “open heart”, which was certainly true about Don Quixote. He really believed he was engaged in a noble crusade!

So what does all of that have to do with the question “Are WE tilting at windmills?”

Thanks for asking!

Well, a few days ago a simple question popped up on Facebook:

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Hence, thoughts of Don Quixote for us old folks, as well as no small amount of serious consideration. Can a seriously fractured America be restored apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think not, and let me tell you why. If we who profess Christ honestly ask ourselves WHY our nation is so fractured right now, and if we know our Bibles, the answer is simple. SIN is the root cause of all that ails America, as well as every other nation on Earth. What began in Eden with a single act of disobedience has endured until now and will continue until Jesus returns to pass judgment. Consequently, if SIN is the root cause, a solution to the sin problem will bring healing. Throughout the history of mankind, men have tried to deal with all sorts of evil perpetrated by the human beings that inhabit our planet. Good and moral governments have passed legislation to punish evil and wrongdoing for the betterment of civil society. Programs of all kinds have been instituted to reform all sorts of harmful behavior patterns. I’m sure you get the picture. I’m also sure you recognize that nearly all of the human solutions to human problems are external at best. We can only hope that they will take root in our hearts and result in lasting change for our good and the good of our society. And therein lies the problem.

The root cause of society’s ills is SIN, and sin is a problem internal to every human born after the Fall of Adam. Therefore, any lasting solution must also be an internal one. It means we need new hearts, new motives, new natures. As scripture tells us, we need to be reborn (See John, Chapter 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus).

Do you see where this is going? Internal problems need internal solutions? The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers that internal solution? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ONLY solution? Exactly.

So about those windmills. . .

Every single day we are told what we need to “do” to fight this or that (name the topic) societal ill by getting involved. We need to write our representatives in Congress, sign petitions, donate money, support podcasts, or to just ‘stand up and fight’ those who are wreaking havoc across the land. Let me be clear – I am not saying we should not be engaged with, or support external efforts to right wrongs. God ordained governmental systems to fight and control evil. By all means get involved in supporting external efforts to right the wrongs in our society and in our nation. Pray for leaders at all levels of civil government. Pray that God would change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1)! However, if we want to see lasting change in our society and culture, the only real solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ invading the hearts of men.

It’s also quite possible that many of the conservatives who are unafraid to do battle against evil in our culture and society know that the core issue is an internal one, but for whatever reason, many of them just stick to much needed external solutions. I am not criticizing them for doing so. It’s just the way it is. To be fair I admit that there are a few who mention the need for God, while stopping short of talking about Christ’s death for our sins. One popular young conservative has even told his college age audiences that the first thing they need to do is “give their hearts to Jesus”! While that sounds great and noble, when we search scripture for that admonition will we find it? (Just a question, not an indictment.)

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In the novel, Don Quixote’s neighbor turned squire, Sancho Panza, tried to explain to our hero that the giants with huge arms were really just windmills and sails and not real enemies, but to no avail. In like manner, trying to correct the ‘windmill chasers’ in our midst might meet with failure.

That’s where we who confess Christ, who know the gospel message, and are willing to be used of God to share the good news with a lost world, enter “stage right”. We can be the standard bearers and ambassadors who can offer the internal remedy to the internal problem that plagues every one of us; our sinful nature. We can be the Paul Harveys who share “the rest of the story”, (Some of you will get that.) And who knows, maybe that’s what God intended for us all along!

“How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them? 15 And how can anyone preach without being sent? It is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:14-15)

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This article first appeared in the Christian Military Fellowship June 2021 Christian Report. which can be located and downloaded hereThe Christian Report is one of the many resources available from Christian Military Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to  helping Christians serving in the Armed Forces  grow in their faith and become “Gospel Ambassadors” in uniform.

William Wirt and the Blind Preacher – Archibald Alexander

The power of religion, in promoting happiness in this life and in disarming death of its terror, has seldom been more beautifully illustrated than in the example of William Wirt, Attorney General of the United States. When a young man, just commencing his professional career, he was distinguished for his genius, his eloquence, his fascinating powers of conversation, and his polished manners. In every circle his society was courted. Fond of pleasure, and the center of attraction of every convivial(1) party, he was living for the joys of this short life, and was in great danger of being ingulfed in that vortex of worldliness and fashion where so many thousands have perished.

While thus living, as he was on one of his professional circuits as a lawyer, he passed a Sabbath where the celebrated blind preacher of Virginia, Rev. James Waddell, was to preach. Mr. Wirt having no other way to pass the Sabbath, entered the humble church with the congregation. He has himself described, in his own forcible language, the scene which ensued. The primitive simplicity of the preacher, the subdued pathos (2) of his tones, his unaffected (3) piety and fervid eloquence, all combined, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, to touch the heart of Wirt. He felt the emptiness of his own joys, and the unprofitableness of his own life. He reflected and wept and prayed. “God be merciful to me a sinner”, which became, for many days and nights, the anxious supplication of his soul. Forsaking his thoughtless companions and his dangerous habits of gayety, he commenced a new life of Christian usefulness. True peace visited his heart, and his benignant (4)countenance proclaimed that he had sought happiness and found it, where alone happiness can be found. He became the advocate of Christian missions, and to every object of philanthropy he consecrated the energies of his noble mind.

Though necessarily called to move in the highest circles of opulence and intellect, and to encounter the temptations with which those circles are ever filled, he humbly, yet fearlessly sustained his character as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and gave his commanding influence, unreservedly and constantly, for the promotion of piety. Revered by the community, and loved almost to devotion by a wide circle of friends, he spent his days in doing good. And when the dying hour came, hope and joy beamed from his eye, brilliant with almost celestial vision, as the glories of his heavenly home were unfolded to his view. His body has long ago mingled with the dust, and his spirit has long dwelt, we trust, with the God who gave it.

Such are the effects of religion. Infidelity can show no such triumphs. Who will not utter the prayer, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his?”

(1) friendly, lively, and enjoyable

(2) evoking pity or sadness

(3) without artificiality or insincerity

(4)kindly and benevolent

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The story you just read is the true account of how God brought William Wirt to the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ, published in a collection of articles by Presbyterian theologian and Princeton Seminary professor Archibald Alexander (April 1772 – October 1851). The blind preacher, Rev. James Waddel was the first Presbyterian Minister in the Northern neck of Virginia. He was known as the “blind preacher Waddell” because he had periods of blindness.

Footnotes notwithstanding, it’s a wonderful account of one man’s salvation. We are told of Mr. Wirt’s character and life situation leading up to a Sunday when he “happened” to walk into a church and listen to a renowned and talented preacher. While he was attracted to the preaching (he was a lawyer), the Holy Spirit opened his heart to hear and receive the gospel message (the Lydia principle in Acts 16?). He was shaken to the core with the realization of his own sinfulness and prayed the simplest of prayers, “God be merciful to me a sinner”. He found a true peace and happiness he had never before known. As a result, his entire life was changed forever!

Dear reader, what’s your story? How did god save you? What happened on your way to the cross?

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