Precision is an important virtue in many areas of life. For the marksman, precision is the only thing on his mind. For the surgeon, it could be the difference between life and death. For the orator or teacher, it could be the difference in understanding and confusion, and that, related to eternal life, could contrast between purveying a truth or a lie. Defining terms for an audience is one thing, but recently I’ve noticed that a lack of precision in wording can create a deep misunderstanding. Language is a funny beast. It is as unique to people as is DNA and even among its own, it can often be convoluted. I’ve noticed in the last year how so many things I say may indeed make sense to me in my understanding of them, but in reality, they can sound like something else to the hearers. Oft what I say may even be offensive or even heretical.  Years ago I was preaching, and a comment that I made birthed controversy. I said simply, “don’t let the devil dupe you, don’t be a sucker.”  A few days later the request to have my sermon pulled from the church website caught me off guard. The brother really thought that the word “sucker” was a profane reference and for several days he had lost a great deal of respect for me.

Other things have caused me to consider my language and to pray that the Lord would grant me the grace to be aware of the need. Recently a church member brought to my attention the difference in a wording related to the ‘illumination’ of the Spirit of God versus His revelation. Someone has even suggested I should be sparing with the usage of the word “brother” when speaking on social media. Another person brought to my attention that the usage of words like faith, trust, believe, etc. are confusing in context at times.

Looking back twenty years ago, I would describe myself as a conservative, Baptist, orthodox, Americanized Pastor who pressed daily to see the church grow in depth and number. The problem was that my “Americanized” training and examples had surely removed a lot of actual truth from my arsenal of ministry. The language of my teaching centered on the actions of men, the thinking of men, the emotions of men, the dedication of men as the “gospel” remained at the center as a gracious offer. The gospel was an opportunity evidenced by the continued invitation to “receive” Jesus, or “pray for salvation.” These practices birthed out of generations of ill-informed and ignorant men who just replicated what they observed and labored through it any way they knew how. I’ll discuss these things at a later time.

Because of this long history, it is even more important now that I utilize wording that is not ‘mainstream’ and expected everyone to grasp it. In a conversation with a gentleman two nights ago I asked the question, “How do you know you have eternal life?” He began a barrage of answers beginning with, “You must ask Jesus into your heart.” He concluded with these “steps” of salvation: “One must then repent of sin, study the Bible, obey Jesus, and begin to grow and do things for others… all in love.”  While all of these things are good experiences, attitudes, actions and efforts, none of them, even the first, are effectual in salvation. Precision needs to be understood as vital in preaching and teaching the Bible. The simplicity of scripture and the gospel message is such that a child can hear the word and be saved.

Jesus says that He is THE TRUTH, THE WAY, and THE LIFE. I use capital letters for emphasis on the definite article, THE, and the object of what and who Jesus is. So a relationship with Jesus Christ is one that agrees with what He says about Himself. Faith is believing on what Jesus says, not finding another way of experiencing Jesus. In reality, there is no other way to know Jesus without reading or hearing the language of Scripture. Jesus is “the eternal life” manifested to us, He is the “image of the invisible God” and no one can come to the Father “except through Him.” The Apostles wrote the words of Christ’s teaching and through them alone can one find faith. Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ is faith in the words of Christ, I believe this is clearly stated by Paul in Romans 10:17, right after he says that no one can believe if someone doesn’t go to them and speak the simple language of the Bible.

The point of this is not to debate the aforementioned truths, but to show that because it is true, and because eternity is in the balance, precision is vital. Being exact goes together with exclusivity and explicitly. Jesus is the exclusive and explicit truth of God. Believing in Jesus Christ is believing in what He says and what His Word says about Him. Trusting in Him is exactly the same. It is holding as truth to the written word of God and its propositions about who Christ is and what He has done. This is something that needs to be understood as the reason so many people are falsely converted to an illogical and invisible faith in an ambiguous and caricatured Christ. That ‘christ’ cannot save anyone. That faith is not saving faith. And no matter how transformative one becomes in their lives, Jesus said that if our righteousness is not greater than that of the Pharisees that we could not have eternal life. So, complete obedience to all things plus some. This is bad, bad news.

The precise good news though is clearly seen in the writing of and about Jesus Christ. And certainly, this information is ONLY found in the Bible. Period. No exceptions. The Bible reveals Jesus as the Image of God, He is the knowledge and wisdom of God. He is the creator of the world. Jesus Christ is the one whom God the Father has sent, as a man, and as God, both equally true at the same time. Scripture teaches that God is holy and just, therefore, He must punish evil. Sin is evil, men are sinners. Therefore, it is good and loving for God to destroy sinners and cast them into eternal damnation. God, however, before the foundation of the world, decreed not a plan, but a promise. A covenant to save His people from their sin and from His just wrath. This is done through Jesus Christ. He was born, he lived a perfectly obedient life as a human being, thus satisfying all the righteous requirements of the law. Then God put Him on the cross to destroy Him. See, God cannot forgive sin, he must punish it. So, because God has decreed to save sinners, Jesus Christ took our sin on Himself, then we can be forgiven because Christ has paid the debt with His blood.

Precision matters. Words matter. Theology matters. If you are reading this and your faith is not in what Scripture says about Jesus, then you, my friend are not found in Jesus Christ. If your faith is in any other thing, place, function, action, thought, determination, experience, attitude, fruitfulness or association, you are desperately in need of seeing the truth of Christ from Scripture and need to believe on Him, the living LOGOS – Word – His speaking about Himself. Because Scripture has taken such a low place of authority and has been replaced by humanism, philosophy, professional ministry and the like, the Gospel has been hidden. Now is the time to see. Now is the day of truth. Today is the day of Salvation. Hear the word of the Lord.

If you don’t believe me, please believe God.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

[1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.[3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. [7] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. [8] Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. [9] For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. [10] But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. [11] Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

For His Glory by His Grace

Pastor James

I have a problem. Every time I think (which is all day long), I feel compelled to bring every thought to a final point and exhaust all arguments. Because of this, I am often very verbose, and lack the discipline to say things in part due to the fear that I may misapply by redaction, and lead someone to “hear what I have not said.” So, this post, by the Lord’s grace, will be a beginning of the end of such things. I have for months been peeling through my thoughts about saving faith and what that means for the joy and peace of the believer. So, those of you who read this and say I’ve missed so much, you are right. Add your voice to the conversation and as the Lord wills, I will do the same.

Faith is Real

Faith for many people appears to be a mythological or mystical experience. While some facets of faith may impose such things, faith is a very tangible thing. It is a constant hoping, striving, longing, and holding for and toward something that is not currently seen, but is certain and true. Faith is an ongoing reality and it always has an object.  For someone to say, “I have faith” and have no object of faith, have a blind faith. Blind faith is to believe in something but not know what that something is. Real faith is a constant believing in Jesus Christ and all that He is and has done. Jesus Christ is the object of saving faith, in all ways.

Faith is Alive

The writing of James and Paul have been at odds among higher critics and theologians throughout history. While the ‘astute’ reader sees no conflict, the teaching of both Romans and James is true. Faith alone gives life and Faith is not alone as a dead single experience. Faith is a living reality. As people hold to a point in history when they did something, they mistake that doing with believing, while mistaking cognitive affirmation as faith. While all of that embroils faith and belief, the faith of the believer is a living faith, not a historical point or logical affirmation. This means that faith is always at work, it doesn’t get put aside, but rather is exercised during doubt, temptation, unbelief, fear, hopelessness, good days, bad days and every season in between. The faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Peter, John, and Paul all reveal that all of life is lived by faith. To live otherwise is sin. A believer who lives a life of faith is one who trusts and rests in the LIFE of the faithful one, Jesus Christ the Righteous. The believer’s life is lived in Christ who is the centrifugal power and author of all good things.

Faith is a Gift

One has to realize that faith in itself is a gift of God, given only through Jesus Christ. Faith is not something that the natural man, one who is still dead in sin, can accomplish.  Jesus teaches in John 3 that those born in the flesh is flesh. Paul reveals faith as the gift of God in Romans 3, giving all glory to God as the one who is the “justifier” of all who believe. If God is the one making the declaration of justification as an act of mercy, then the work and fruit of faith is also His. Paul teaches this in Ephesians 2 explicitly, that faith is a gift of God so that no one can boast.  In like manner, Jesus (John 3) tells Nicodemus that salvation is the work of God, and that faith (part of good works) is carried out by God. While some hate this truth, those who are saved love this truth because it no longer puts our rest in our ability, but allows the beloved to rest in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Alone.

Faith is the Security

This sufficiency is the point of faith. Jesus Christ has done all that is required for salvation, righteousness, and satisfying the judgment of God. He has secured salvation apart from man’s will and ability and God has granted faith to those who have been born of Him by His Spirit. (John 1) Faith IN the person of Jesus Christ brings security in all things which also reveals a peace that “surpasses all understanding.”

This security is the security of LIFE. Knowing that eternity is secure in Jesus Christ is a grand reality! Peace comes when one has faith that Christ has secured this peace. It is known experientially when life seems to constantly remind us of our sin and separation and in these moments, when we hold fast, pleading and praising the Lord for “His glorious grace”, we see the glorious power of Jesus, who is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Eph 1) This security of life is the birthplace of joy! JOY in Jesus Christ is the power of God that wipes the fear away and the horror of uncertainty, and brings HOPE in times of hopelessness. So often Christians are distraught concerning their salvation, or they are dull, hoping in their own actions and responses, rather than hoping in Jesus Christ alone. There is no joy where there is no hope, and there is no hope where there is no joy of certainty. Confidence at its root means “with faith.” So, confidence in Christ is wrapped up with HIS giving security of life, joy, hope and ENDURANCE.

Do you see the place now where I desire to preach/write for hours on these glorious and beautiful things! May the Lord place in us the desire to get into His word and seek these truths for our growth and for His glory! Faith is ALL OF CHRIST, and none of man. While we exercise faith, it is clearly a gift from God and most assuredly, we have the peace that comes from faith in that the object of our faith is immovable, eternal, and omnipotent. Jesus in all His glorious power is able to do all that is required to keep us in Himself. I have recently been learning the song, “He will hold me fast” to be sung during our assembly. The truths of this sing to my soul, and my soul is at peace and “it is well.” This truth is taught by Jesus Christ in John 6, “And 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.”  Until we talk again, let’s keep working out our faith by the power of God, which is trusting in ALL OF CHRIST, all the time, for all of eternity.

“When I fear my faith will fail Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold He must hold me fast”

Those He saves are His delight Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost He will hold me fast

For my life He bled and died Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight When he comes at last

He will hold us fast beloved. HE WILL!

Pastor James