Tag Archives: salvation

Three Phrases Christians Should Never Use

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There are three phrases some Christians use when talking about sin that should never be used. They often cause people to feel condemned and discouraged rather than loved and encouraged. Not only that, but the phrases are lies.

  1. God cannot look upon sin.

Christians have taken part of Habakkuk 1:13 and twisted it to make people believe that God cannot look at sin. It makes people think that God must be so disgusted with them when they mess up that He can’t even look at them. That is far from the truth. If Christians who use that phrase would just read the whole verse, they would notice that the rest of it actually reveals that God does, indeed, look upon sin, but the implication is that He cannot watch it happen without doing something about it. Yeah, I know it sometimes seems like God is blind and doesn’t care about the evil in the world. That was Habakkuk’s question, and God answered him. If anything, God is full of patience, as well as compassion, mercy, grace and love toward His children, not disgust.

  1. God can’t use you if you are in sin.

I’m not sure what verse or verses are used for this one, but it is another phrase that can make people feel condemned and discouraged. Usually, when the phrase is used, it is used in reference to ‘big’ sins or things the person speaking has strong convictions against. What of the gossip or the glutton? I’m sure they sin daily, but does that stop God from being able to use them to bless people as well, or to work with children in the church, or to sing in the choir? That God cannot use us because we sin or struggle in an area is a lie that the devil wants us to believe to keep us from actively reaching out to others, because it makes us feel unworthy. Intentional sin may interfere with our intimacy with God, but as in the parable of the prodigal son, the Father stands waiting with open arms for our return.

  1. You need to get right with God.

What makes us right with God? According to the Bible, we are declared right with God when we accept Jesus as our Savior for redeeming us from sin and rising from the dead. So to imply a Christian is not right with God because of a sin she is struggling with is to imply a works-based system rather than a faith-based one. Which is it? Are we or are we not saved by faith? I am reminded of something my friend, Randell, said in a Sunday school lesson based on a study from Hebrews 8.

He said, “It is unfortunate that many Christians think they are saved by grace but still must fulfill their Christian life according to the Old Testament law. They want the New Covenant for salvation, but they want the Old Covenant for sanctification.”

If we feel the need to approach a Christian brother or sister about something in their lives, then we need to focus specifically on the issue and not imply that the person is not right with God. What if they agree with God about the thing they are struggling with, and we come along and accuse them of not being right with God? We will leave them feeling condemned and discouraged rather than loved, encouraged, and strengthened.

We really need to be careful that we do not parrot what we have heard other Christians say without really considering the validity and impact of those things. These three phrases have done a lot of harm by hurting people and misrepresenting God, so let’s throw them out.

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Conviction vs. Condemnation

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Just Do It, Because No One Else Can Do It For Us

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Photo credit: Martin Louis

This past Tuesday, I officially became a member of our local volunteer fire department. Although I am just a corporate member for the time being, I plan on taking an EMT course and becoming a responder. In the meantime, I can participate in some of the training sessions, one of which is a fitness program led by one of the firefighters free of charge. It has been great!

You know how you know you should be doing something, but put it off either because you just can’t get motivated enough or you feel like you’re too busy? After experiencing some knee pain earlier in the week that had nothing to do with the fitness training, I went to see my chiropractor. (They do treat more than back pain and back injuries.) He examined my knee, and knowing I have also had a history of hip pain, he raised his brow and imploringly said, “René, you have got to stretch. Everyday.” I had heard those words from him before. Then he explained that my muscles were too tight and were pulling on my kneecap whenever I put weight on it while it was bent. Needless to say, I was so grateful that last night’s fitness training was a stretching workout. I have been doing stretches everyday this past week, and although I am still experiencing some occasional pain, I have noticed a big difference. I had not been as diligent to stretch when it was just my hip, but having shooting pain in my knee when going up or down stairs, or simply squatting to sit on the toilet was a great motivator to start stretching daily. It’s better than having surgery, and I don’t want anything to hinder my new venture with the department and plans on becoming an emergency responder. Pain and strong desire are often good motivators.

You know the saying, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play?” Working out and being self-motivated reminded me of something the Apostle Paul had said in his letter to the Philippians. People, who believe we have to earn brownie points with God by being good and religious in order to get to heaven, often use what he said to prove their point. In Philippians 2:12, 13 Paul wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” It’s kind of like that phrase about the cat and mice. Sometimes it’s easier to be motivated to do the right thing when we’re around people who can motivate us. Sometimes when a good leader or boss dies or is away for an extended period of time, things can start falling apart. Paul was saying that the Philippians had always been good at following God while he was with them, but he was encouraging them to continue following God even though he wasn’t there to hold their hand. They needed to work out or exercise their own salvation, to exercise their own faith, because no one could do it for them. At the same time, he reminded them that God was still with them and working in them, so they were not actually alone.

Just as we will never reach any goals by waiting for someone else to do it for us, we can never be reconciled to God and be with Him in heaven through someone else’s faith. Sure, Jesus paid the penalty for us, because we can never earn enough brownie points, but we still have to accept Him as Lord and Savior. No one else can do it for us.

 

If you liked this, you might also like… You Can Do It!


Read Between the Lines

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It Is Not About Going to Heaven

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Not only is Easter not about the Easter bunny, colored eggs, jellybeans or chocolate, but Easter is also not about having our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven. It’s not about us. It’s about reconciliation. It is not about religion. It’s about a relationship.

In an attempt to evangelize and convince people to become a Christian, some Christians have been taught to use the tactic that asks a non-Christian, “If you died today, would you go to heaven?” as if that is the goal and the Gospel itself. I understand that people are generally more interested in getting to heaven than in having a relationship with a God they don’t know or of Whom they have a skewed perception. Most people are at least vaguely aware of the concept of heaven and hell, and most would like to avoid hell if at all possible.

But even paradise isn’t really paradise without someone to share it with.

I understand why some Christians use the tactic to gain an audience, but I have also heard from people who have been offended by Christians who tell them if they don’t accept Christ, they are going to hell. Yeah, like that wins them over. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember Jesus ever doing that, and if we are supposedly following Him as His disciples, aren’t we supposed to be following in His footsteps? Sure Jesus talked more about hell than He did about heaven, but He was full of grace and love when dealing with those He was trying to reach.

One of the things Jesus said to the disciples in the upper room, during the Last Supper before His crucifixion, was meant to give comfort and hope. Although it was about heaven, it was more than that. He said:

“’Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’” —John 14:1-3

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for our sins so we could go to heaven.

He died so that we can be reconciled to God.

He died to break the curse of sin and separation.

He died so that we can be adopted as sons and daughters and

live forever

with Him.

D.A. Carson said:

“We go to heaven, not to be saved, but to see Jesus’ glory, because God has determined, because of His love for His Son from before the foundation of the world, that His Son’s glory would be displayed. Now, I know that’s bound up with our salvation… but unless you see that this is not simply so that we will be saved, but so that we will see Jesus’ glory, then even heaven itself becomes slightly domesticated by some assumptions that we are at the center of everything, when it’s Jesus who is at the center of everything.”

When we try to convince someone that Jesus is the way to get to heaven and make heaven the focus over a restored relationship with the God who loves us, we do a disservice.

It is not about going to heaven. It is about getting to spend an eternity with the One who is love.

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Happy Resurrection Day!


Here’s My Heart

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A poem by my friend, Randell Bell, with his permission.

After God’s Own Heart

A stony heart
Oh Lord I give
To be transformed
So I may live.

The price of sin
I know is death,
So I must change
Before my last breath.

A heart like Yours
Is what I need.
A heart of love,
Not selfish greed.

So change my heart,
And when You’re done,
Make me like
Your loving Son.

—RCBell ©2005

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”  —Ezekiel 36:26

 


Because of Jesus

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My eyes were opened to the truth that, because of Jesus, I am now holy, righteous, and pleasing to God.  I didn’t have to earn God’s blessings.  I’m already blessed because of Jesus Christ.  All I had to do was believe.”  —Joshua Tongol


Clean Slate, New Operating System

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“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” —2 Cor. 5:17

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  —2 Cor. 5:17

Have you ever wondered why, if old things are passed away and all things are become new, and you’re supposedly this new creature, it doesn’t seem true?  Although I have heard bits and pieces of what it means, I asked the Lord if He could give me an analogy to better understand and explain it.  I believe He gave me two… even three.

The first analogy is a clean slate.  When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past, all those old things are passed away.  There is no sin too great that Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t cover it.  It’s like having your slate wiped clean.  It’s like having the prison doors opened and getting a new identity— in Christ, without any stigma of who we were or what we did before.  All things are become new to us.

Ok, so you might ask, “If I’m a new creature, why do I sometimes still act like the old me?”  So the second analogy is a computer.  Since my computer knowledge is limited, I asked my son, Chris, to help me with the analogy.  When we confess Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9), it’s like he gives us a new operating system, an upgrade.  He doesn’t replace the hardware and erase our memory or who we are, He gives us a new operating system, but we retain the same applications and files.  Being a MacGirl I know that some system upgrades make some programs and applications obsolete, and they simply won’t work as well or not at all with the new operating system, because it processes things differently.  Let me give you another analogy.  If you used to be a professional thief before you accepted Christ, you’d still have the capability and talent to steal after you accept Christ, but the way you process opportunities will change.  While a part of you might be tempted to steal given the opportunity, your new spirit with new affections and desires processes or thinks about those opportunities differently.  And even if you do give into the temptation to steal, it won’t feel quite the same, and eventually, as the Lord gently purges out the old programs and applications, learned behaviors and sinful desires, you’ll discover new ways of using your skills for good instead of evil.  You are a new creature, because you have been given the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13), the upgrade, but some of your other programming still needs to be upgraded as well.

When we accept Christ as Savior, not only do we get a clean slate and a new operating system, but because of God’s amazing grace and love expressed through Christ’s perfect sacrifice, our slates remain forever clean (Hebrews 10:14).  Isn’t that great news?


Happy Resurrection Day!

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Snowdrops are said to be symbolic of consolation, so I thought it would be very apropos in light of remembering Jesus’ resurrection and the consolation we have through Him.
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” –2 Corinthians 1:5
“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17)

Happy Resurrection Day!


Nature’s Worship and Expectation

ImageWhile taking advantage of this gorgeous cool spring-like day, I took my daughter’s dog for a walk and silently talked with the Lord, reminiscing about the bee and other ways He has expressed His love and care.  The wind began to blow, and I heard a noise.  The trees were ‘clapping’ together, and I was reminded of a worship song that is based on Isaiah 55:12, which says, “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

I also heard another sound that wasn’t quite as worshipful.  A pine tree creaked and groaned.  Romans 8 records how “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” in expectation of its delivery from the curse— delivery Jesus Christ will bring at His Second Coming.  And those of us who have believed what Jesus said about Himself, although our adoption ‘papers have been signed’ and we’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit, we, too, groan at times in our frail and aging bodies, as we wait in expectation of deliverance also.

As I continued walking, I sang the song and began to hear other sounds join in— crows cawing, the melting snow dripping, and an occasional rush of wind.  It was beautiful.  Just like today.


This Is Love: A Conversation With a Modern-Day Roman

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Yeah, I know it’s almost Christmas, but we would have no Resurrection Day apart from the birth of our Savior.  So I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a conversation I had almost five years ago with a skeptical, modern-day Roman in response to the photo above.

sara y tzunky:  Why this is love????? To die is love? To be beaten is love? Not try to save itself is love? To walk around with a cross on his shoulder is love? Why this need of the blood to demonstrate love? Why this need of shoving the worst and not the wonderful of this world to give love? I never understood.

Me:  sara y tzunky, is there anyone you love so much you would be willing to give your life to save theirs?

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin is ‘lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4); it is any violation of the law or character of God. It is basically saying to God, “I don’t like Your rules, so I’m going to do what I want to do.” The penalty is death.

The Bible says that all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all deserve death because none of us have lived up to God’s law. We have a difficult time just keeping ten of them, much less the two greatest: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-39).

The only One who could pay the price… the penalty… for our sin was the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Not only did Jesus teach about love, but He demonstrated His love by being willing to suffer under the sinful, violent hands of mankind to save those who would accept His sacrifice as a gift of eternal life. He did that for you.

sara y tzunky:  Thanks for your answer, dear SweetCapture.
I am sorry but I believe you don’t understand.
The penalty of sin is death. In which sense? Following the Bible’s standards I am a sinner. I am writing to you so you can observe that I am not still death. So what?
You said: Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is exactly the point! For yours believes God and his son Jesus are omnipotent so they had the possibility to choice the way to forgive your past sins. So why they don’t choose something more happy and positive? Like I don’t know, transport all of us another time in the Garden of Haven or for example give a big party inviting every man and woman and explaining to them that is better to live in a life of love and peace. Why blood blood blood blood and blood?
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Perfect I agree. And better is a God that created sin, that eliminates sin (or you believe that there is something that God actually had not created?). Big amount of love in this case! So why Jesus doesn’t lay down his life not to die but to work hard doing something like eliminate from this planet materially sin forever and ever? Why all this publicity for hate and death? Why all this publicity for the cruel Romans? Why not to show something of peaceful, just to explain like the thing should go? Why blood blood blood murders crosses, studs, swords, armies, power and poverty? Why not life love peace, prosperity, food, happiness eternal life, freedom, beauty of nature, speaking with birds etc etc? I repeat they are God and they can do whatever they want.
Thanks for your attention

Me:  sara y tzunky, I understand the confusion since Adam and Eve did not immediately die a physical death. Death means ‘separation’, whether it is a physical separation of the body and spirit, or whether it is a relational separation of people and people, or people and God. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had personal and close fellowship with God, and they could have lived forever, because they had the tree of life. After they sinned, because they separated themselves from God out of guilt and fear, and because of God’s holiness, they lost that close fellowship. The literal translation of Genesis 2:17 is “dying you shall die”, so while they didn’t die immediately, they were in the process of dying until they eventually died. They no longer had the Tree of Life and close fellowship with God to sustain them.

God had given them only one commandment. Just one. He had provided everything they needed in a beautiful garden… everything was good. The only thing forbidden to them was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They ate its fruit because they wanted to become gods… equal with their Creator, rather than trust that He knew what was best. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. God had warned them of the consequences, but they chose to believe the serpent rather than God. They rebelled and brought evil and death into the world. God did not create sin. God’s character is one of law and order. Remember, the Bible says that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). A God of law and order cannot act contrary to His nature. Sin is the absence of law and order, so it is not something that is ‘created’ but something (law and order) that is taken away or disregarded.

If you tell a child not to touch fire, and they touch it, the consequence is not happy and positive. They get burned… sometimes badly. It doesn’t matter how much the child is sorry for disobeying, s(he) will still suffer for making that wrong choice.

Why the publicity for hate and death? Because mankind, even to this day, believes we can choose or evolve to become better. Jesus was peaceful and taught about love, obedience, peace… yet the violence within men’s hearts brutally killed Him. It revealed the true nature of mankind. And because God could offer forgiveness for such a horrible act, it reveals God’s matchless love and mercy. All other religious effort is man seeking God…only Biblical Christianity reveals a loving God seeking after fallen Mankind. Those who choose to believe what He has said about Himself and accept His gift of eternal life, will live a life of love, peace, prosperity, happiness, freedom, and beauty with Him in Heaven.

sara y tzunky:  Dear SweetCapture,
How it is nice to discuss with you about Love on a Flickr page. For me Love or love is LOVE not Death. And Death is Death not separation or something else. The word “death” was used in every time to scare simple peoples. If you or the ones who wrote your Bible want to mean separation why they didn’t use the word separation? They use death, blood, fire, eternal pain and other pleasantness to scare and bend people. Another thing: if Jesus comes to erase yours sins why in the sense of your Holy text you are still doomed to die? Something didn’t work well or what?
I think that you continue not to understand what I have said. But this is surely the fault of my English. I sorry I am from Italy, Rome: I am a Roman. So I will use the word of a great ancient philosopher, Epicurus: “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent –and he is not a God-. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?”. So we came back to the first point: if it exists a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, if there is blood death and destruction, if there is a bad nature of mankind is because God want it -supposing naturally that God exists and he is like the Bible depict him-. So if there is a man dying nailed to a cross is because God want it. For this reason I believe that this is not love, this wickedness. This is wickedness even because you believe that actually Jesus is God.
Best Regards, A Roman

Me:  sara y tzunky, first, your English is good. I understand what you mean, because I have also had questions like yours.

God does not use death, blood, fire, eternal pain, and unpleasantness to scare and bend people for His own purposes. He warns us of things, because He has given us a certain level of freedom to choose, and He desires we would trust Him and choose good. False teachers and leaders use those things to bend and scare people for their own gain.

If you do not want your child to harm himself or others, you warn them about bad things… unpleasant things. Yes, you hope to scare them enough to avoid the bad things, but you are not simply trying to bend them for your own purposes. It is for their good.

Jesus’ death erases the penalty of eternal separation from God. It does not erase the consequences of a physical death. God has promised that those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and believe that He was raised from the dead, when we die a physical death, He will give us new heavenly bodies that will live forever with Him in Heaven. As long as we live in our physical bodies and in this ‘dying’ universe, we will continue to experience that physical death… UNLESS we are still alive when Jesus returns once more, not as a suffering servant, but as a victorious King.

God said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9), and “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God…” (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are some things that are beyond our understanding because God is too big for our limited minds to understand or because He simply has not revealed those things to us. God will eventually abolish evil. Why didn’t He prevent it from happening? Unless a person has a choice as to whether or not they will love and trust you, then it is not love at all. God gave Adam and Eve two choices: trust me and do not eat the fruit and you will live in this garden forever… or eat the fruit and experience death. They both chose to trust the serpent and their own judgment more than God, and they chose the consequence of the curse. God never wanted it, but since He allowed Adam and Eve the choice, He also provided a way to be redeemed from the curse… because He still loves us… but He will not force anyone to love Him back. To me… that is true love.


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