Do You Feel Saved?

Are you saved? How do you know you are saved? “I know I am saved because I feel it in my heart,” many often say. But are the feelings of your heart the proper standard to determine your salvation? We do not use this standard in other matters. No one says of his bank statement, “I know it is right because I feel it in my heart,” while they ignore to properly add and subtract from their balance. No carpenter says, “I know the board is 10 feet long because I feel it in my heart” – he checks the board with the proper standard, the measuring tape! But, when it comes to a matter far more important than bank balances and board lengths – salvation – many are willing to trust their eternal welfare to their feelings.

Can you trust the feelings of your heart to tell you whether or not you are saved? The Bible says “No!” “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26), for “the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). Feelings are subjective, they change from person to person and even within the same person. Truth is objective, it remains fixed and does not change, regardless of the person or the year.

The way you feel about salvation does not change God’s truth concerning it, just as the way you feel about math, does not change the truth of it. Whether or not you are saved is an objective fact, not subject to the whims of how you feel from moment to moment. So how can they know they are saved? The Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

You do not have to rely upon your own faulty and deceptive feelings concerning your salvation. The Lord has given “the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). The knowledge and confidence of salvation can only come from the objective standard of God’s Word. God will judge you by His Word, not by how you feel. Jesus proclaimed, “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). What is your salvation based upon? Many people feel in their heart they are saved because they have “simply believed” in Jesus. While salvation certainly requires faith in Jesus, faith alone does not and cannot save according to God’s Word. James wrote, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). Other people have prayed and “asked Jesus to come into their heart” and now they feel they are saved. But nowhere does the Bible teach one must simply pray to Jesus in order to be saved. God’s Word teaches to be saved you must: hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17); believe Jesus is the Son of God (Mk. 16:16); repent of your sins (Acts 2:38); confess Jesus (Rom. 10:9; Acts 8:36-38) and be baptized for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16). Those who obey God’s Word do not have to guess whether or not they are saved based upon the feelings of their heart. They know they are saved because their salvation is based on the unchanging Truth of God’s Word.

– by Wayne Greeson

Teach. Teach. Teach.

In an article on the Washington Post website (September 24, 2015), Indian-born journalist Fareed Zakaria wrote:

“I am not a Christian. But growing up in India, I was immersed in Christianity. I attended Catholic and Anglican schools from ages 5 to 18, where we would sing hymns, recite prayers and study the Scriptures. The words and actions of Pope Francis have reminded me what I, as an outsider, have always admired deeply about Christianity, that its central message is simple and powerful: Be nice to the poor.”

My dad use to say, “It’s better to let people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” That is actually a quote attributed to various people like Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln. Either way, I think many journalists should have grown up with my dad! Here is Solomon: “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent” (Proverbs 17:28).

Christianity is not about “being nice to the poor.” “Poor” is used 39 times in the New Testament. To be sure, being nice to the poor is an important aspect of New Testament teaching. “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10).

But the central message of Christianity (dare we remind our Indian-born friend that “Christ” begins “Christianity?”), is the salvation of man through Jesus Christ to the glory of God. The word “save” is found 97 times in the New Testament; “salvation” is found 42 times; “Savior” is found 24 times. Why? Because the central message of Christ is salvation of man through Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

Poverty is not man’s biggest problem. Sin is. “Sin” is found 243 times in the New Testament. “Sinner,” 43 times. “Lawlessness” is found 20 times.

It would not take Mr. Zakaria (or any other leftist) very long to see what the New Testament is really all about: “She [Mary] will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus did not come to save people from poverty. He did not come to save people from having to do without (gasp!) cable, internet, or cell phones. He did not come to save people from having to eat tuna fish and crackers from time to time. He came to save people from their sins.

Editorializing on Zakaria’s statement, The Weekly Standard observes (October 12, 2015, pg. 3): “Now, if Fareed Zakaria went to Christian schools for 13 years and came away thinking the ‘central message’ of Christianity is ‘Be nice to the poor,’ as opposed to salvation and forgiveness in Christ himself, well, either he wasn’t much of a student or his teachers were deficient.” That’s putting it charitably.

We cannot overestimate the ignorance of the general public on the nature of Christianity. Teach. Teach. Teach.

Paul Holland

Did You Know?

When Paul works his way backwards from salvation to God in Romans 10, he says those “who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (verse 13).  He then asks rhetorical questions, “How can they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  How can they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they be sent?” (verses 14-15).  He points out that preaching alone didn’t save people, then quotes Isaiah, saying “Who has believed our report?” (verse 16).  That word “report” is important to remember.

We all know the next verse: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

But did you know that this isn’t actually what the verse is supposed to say?  The word “report” in verse 16 is a noun.  It is a message, something delivered to people.  The word “hearing” in verse 17—in the original—is the EXACT SAME WORD.  That’s right, it is supposed to be a noun, not a verb.  Not only that, but there’s another word in the Greek that isn’t in most English translations—the word that means “the.”  Literally, this verse reads:

“So then the faith comes by (our) report, and (our) report (comes) from the declaration of God.”

Romans 10:17, instead of being designed to show a step in the plan of salvation, is stressing the origin of the message that saves: the faith (see Jude 3) comes from the message we preach, and that message comes from God.

(Note: the Modern Literal Version, and Young’s Literal Translation both make this point clear in their translations)

-Bradley S. Cobb

When Worship Becomes High Risk!

    A church had a large plaque hanging on the wall in the foyer of the building. Several names were listed on it. One Sunday morning an elder noticed seven-year-old Billy staring up at it. “Sir, what is this?” Billy asked the elder. “Well, Billy, this is a list of all the people who have died in the service,” replied the elder. They stared at the plaque for several moments. Then Billy’s voice broke the silence as he asked quietly, “Which service was it – morning or evening?” Military service can be high-risk. Thankfully, the risk of physical violence in worship services, while always a real possibility, is rather low for most congregations. But there is another kind of risk that is quite high when we come to worship assemblies. According to Scripture, we are at a high degree of spiritual risk any time we approach God casually or insincerely. A dramatic case in point is Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. Giving is a prescribed act of worship – but this married couple lied about what they gave. The apostle Peter charged that, “You have not lied to men but to God.” They did a right thing for a very wrong reason. They came to the worship assembly more concerned to impress people than God. The result was deadly – three hours apart Ananias and then Sapphira “breathed their last and fell down dead” and each was taken out and buried. Insincere, careless worship will expose any worshiper to high risk.

What would happen in modern worship assemblies if God sent immediate judgment every time people in a church service did right things for wrong motives, more concerned with the approval of other people than the approval of God, in effect lying to God? Jesus taught God desires and seeks true worship from true worshipers (John 4:23-24). He also taught worship can be in vain, saying in Matthew 15:7-9 to some religious people, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” The New Living Translation says in verse 9, “Their worship is a farce.” Perish the thought anyone would be faking worship at church. But since actions speak louder than words, it is undeniable some people who show up at worship assemblies are actually rather light-hearted about worshiping God. All kinds of stuff is sometimes going on after the worship period begins. “Hall-monitoring,” socializing in the foyer or other places, talking and texting in the pews, wandering around the building or outside it, leaving early, catching a few winks, using electronic devices to check e-mails or facebook or play games – all these and other things make clear not every- body at church actually engages in worship. Gordon Dahl said, “Most people tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship” (Work, Play, and Worship in a Leisure-Oriented Society). I don’t know if most people play at worship or not. I know some do. And I know everyone who does so is at high risk of worshiping in vain. I’m not bent out of shape and I don’t have an axe to grind with anybody. I’m just saying some people who come to worship assemblies need to work harder at actually worshiping God.

“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16)

By: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN

“We Do Marriage Right”

For many years Kentucky Fried Chicken used a slogan in their advertising that said, “We do chicken right.”  There was substance behind that saying, for KFC franchises can be found throughout the world.

That slogan came to mind when I read about eight siblings from Indiana.  The Clinkenbeards have been married a combined total of 448 years; that translates into an average of 56 years per couple.

I am aware that being married many years doesn’t necessarily mean that a marriage has been a success.  Still, the Clinkenbeards demonstrate a family expectation that marriages are meant to endure.  Bill Clinkenbeard spoke for his family when he observed that marriage “is a lot of give and take – and a lot of love”.  He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 59 years.

This family stands in stark contrast to trends we’re hearing about in America.  We’ve heard for many years about divorce rates, but a more troubling statistic is that marriage itself is viewed by many as obsolete.  A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2010 found that 39% held this view, as opposed to 28% in 1978.  Cohabitation, not marriage, is the norm for many, and the numbers seem to be on the rise.

The Bible, of course, presents a different view of marriage.  Hebrews 13:4 sums up the Lord’s ideal: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”  That “honorable” esteem of matrimony is suggested by the Clinkenbeards’ long-term marriages.

Jesus endorsed marriage when asked about His view on the subject: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

A committed marriage based upon God’s principles will yield great blessings.  Proverbs 5:15,18-19 makes that clear: “Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. … Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. … always be enraptured with her love.”

Like good physical health, marriages thrive when care is taken to nurture and care for them.  But the payoff will be great: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Copyright, 2017, Timothy D. Hall

Are you guilty of this?

False Standards

I often hear people trying to establish right and wrong based on the wrong standard. Here are some examples:

Our Parents (Mt. 10:21, 34-37). As much as we should love and respect our parents, we cannot establish right and wrong on the basis of our parents alone.

Our Conscience (Ac. 23:1; 26:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:12-13). Even though our conscience can be useful, we may still be wrong even though our conscience doesn’t bother us. Paul had followed his conscience even when he was a persecutor.

Emotions & Feelings (Pr. 14:12; 28:26; Jer. 10:23). Just because something “feels” right to you, that doesn’t necessarily make it right. Sin can even “feel” right.

The Majority (Mt. 7:13-14). Don’t ever think that something is right simply because most believe it. The majority is headed to destruction.

Preachers & Religious Leaders (2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Pet. 2:1-3). Your preacher may be a great guy, but that doesn’t mean he is right.

Tradition (Mt. 15:1-9; Col. 2:8). Truth is not established by how long something has been around. Sin has been around a long time, too.

The Good End (Rom. 3:8). The end doesn’t always justify the means. Something is not right just because we may think it is causing “good”.

What is the “RIGHT” way to tell right from wrong? God’s WORD, and HIS word ALONE (Jn. 12:48).

– by Andrew Mitchell

A lesson from 40+ years of ministry

To serve, or be served

Follow me in this scenario: A church member attends church for years. Though he or she attends fairly regularly, he adds nothing consistently to the efforts of the church. He does not teach a Bible class, does not repair widow’s storm doors, does not look up visitors to church.

How long does it take to develop a habit? Thirty days?

This church member now has a well-established habit of not adding to the church’s success in any way.

So let’s begin with one central question: Is it the church’s function to serve us, or is it a vehicle by which we can serve?

Many seem to come to the church for the same reason they might eat at a fancy restaurant. They want great food and great service, and they are annoyed when they don’t get it.

So, in a word, do we come to the church to be served, or to serve?

As a preacher for over forty years I cannot count the number of times I have spoken to people who have left the church because it did not serve them in the way they wished or expected.

Yet it seems obvious to me that if everybody is waiting to be served, nobody will serve.

The hallmark of a Christian is to serve: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

Jesus’ life was characterized by this very quality: “Even as the son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Can I challenge you today? Ask yourself, am I an integral part of my congregation? (For some of my readers, this might start with making a commitment to one particular congregation). If not, here is a benchmark with which to aim: Determine that you will regularly contribute to at least one activity of the church this year. If it is regularly writing cards to visitors and shut ins, so be it; if it is teaching the Wednesday night first grade Bible class for a quarter, do it; if it is looking up the congregation’s elderly and serving them, fair enough.

If twenty members do what I have just suggested, the effect on their congregation will be incalculable.

Try it. You’ll see.

Stan Mitchell

A Third Mile Christian

    In Matthew 5:41, Jesus says that if a Roman soldier compelled a Christian to go one mile (as he had the right to do in the Roman Empire), the Christian should go two miles. Jesus asks us to do the extra, to be ready to sacrifice time and energy to help those who are in need. The Christian does not take a yardstick and say, “Here ends my mile. I will go no further.”

    The story of the good samaritan in Luke 10 is an example of a man who went the extra mile. In fact, we might suggest that he went the third mile. The text says in verse 25 that the lawyer wanted to test Jesus. This lets us know that his motive is not completely sincere. This is one of six occasions where someone challenges / tests Jesus.

    Of course, Jesus directed him back to the law of Moses and asked how he understood it. We have the two greatest commandments – love the Lord supremely and love your neighbor sacrificially. But the lawyer wanted to justify his behavior, so he challenged Jesus with the question, “Who is my neighbor?” For the first-century Jew, a neighbor was someone from the Jewish nation. If you weren’t from the Jewish nation, you were not a neighbor.

    So, Jesus gives the famous and powerful story of the good samaritan. In verses 30-32, we have the “self-interested” ones: the priest and the Levite. There were many priests living in the vicinity of Jericho. One would expect the priest to help the injured man. But, no. Next, a Levite comes along. The Levite was a temple minister. One would expect the Levite to be helpful. After all, it was his job to teach the law (such as “love your neighbor” – Lev. 19:18) to the Israelites. But he does not help.

    There were many possible “excuses” for not helping. Perhaps they feared the danger involved. The road from Jericho to Jerusalem, four hundred years later, was known as the “bloody way.” Perhaps they both were in a hurry. Maybe they feared becoming unclean or could not spare the expenses.

    But the good samaritan comes along. If we were hearing this story for the first time and were Jews, perhaps we would wonder if Jesus was criticizing the Jewish leaders. Would an ordinary Israelite be the hero? Would an angel intervene? Or would the man die and shame the community?

    Instead, the hero is a samaritan. Jesus emphasizes the word “Samaritan” by using the word first in the sentence. These were considered enemies of the Jews. One oral law said that eating with Samaritans was like eating pork. The Samaritans had rejected Jesus just a few weeks before (Luke 9:51-56).

    Here we see now the “third mile Christian.” Verse 33 is called the “fulcrum” of the story, by Nolland. The word “compassion” is last in the sentence, bringing our focus to that concept. Compassion is that emotion that motivates us to help those who are in need.

    The church needs scientists and teachers. The church needs accountants and secretaries. The church needs business men and nurses. The church needs men and women with new plans and big ideas. But what the church needs most is men and women with big hearts – compassionate hearts.

    Thus, the good Samaritan acted like a Christian when he bandaged the wounds of the injured man. But, he went the second mile by bringing him to the inn, out of the road, out of danger. Yet, he also goes the third mile by giving the inn keeper two days’ wages, enough for room and board for about two weeks and promised to pay more if necessary when he returned.

    When asked who proved to be the neighbor, the lawyer could not bring his lips to utter the words “Samaritan.” Yet, the Samaritan travelled the road of life with an attentive look, a compassionate heart, a helpful hand, a willing foot, and an open wallet.

    May you and I “go and do likewise” – be a “third-mile” Christian.

–Paul Holland

I need a priest

I pray to God that I may find
A priest to make me whole,
A priest who has a sacrifice
That can redeem my soul.

My soul is lost through my own sin,
Not any other’s fault.
Only what I myself have done
Puts me in Satan’s vault.

God has the key. He can unlock
And free me from that cell
Where I am Satan’s prisoner
And rescue me from hell.

Christ Jesus in the Priest I need.
My God sent him for me.
His sacrifice, made on the cross,
Can set all sinners free.

Not only I, but you my friend
Can from the holding pen
Of sin and death and hell escape
To God’s eternal heav’n.

And so I ask you to believe
As I believe. Obey
The Son of God who offers life
And follow him today.

By Gerald Cowan

Lord make me to know mine end, the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am

2 Timothy 4:6 “For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand”.

 Death–When? Where? How? None of us knows the day or the hour in which our earthly tabernacle will be dissolved. Neither do we have any idea of where or how we will shed these earthly bonds. We only know that it is certain that the day will come for us in which this old physical body we now inhabit  will be laid aside and we will move out into eternity to face our God in judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Really, the when, where or how do not matter. The most important thing for us is to be sure that we are ready to depart this earthly life at any moment of time be it day or night and ready to stand face to face with our God and account for how we have used this great gift of life ( 1 Sam. 20:3; Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Today we travel down the corridor of time on a journey that began the day we were born into this world. This journey is unlike anything ever known because it has a beginning but it has no end. O to be sure, this physical body will cease to exist but that will not mark the end of our existence. That grave in the silent city of the dead is not our final resting place (2 Cor. 5:1; 1 Cor. 15:42-57; John 14:1-3).  The truth is that with each step we take, with every tick of the clock, with every sunrise we awake to, we are just a little closer to the moment we will step out into eternity on a journey from whence we will not return.  So, live every moment of your life in a way that will allow you to sing with conviction, “Each step I take I know that He will guide me, To higher ground He ever leads me on. Until someday the last step will be taken. Each step I take just leads me  closer home”. Not one of us knows how long we are going to live on planet earth. It is not a matter of will I die, it is only a matter of when will I die. Right now the most important thing any of us can do for ourselves (and perhaps for others also) is to make sure that when the sun sets on our life, we are ready. Think for a moment on these words from David: “Lord make me to know mine end, the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am”–Psalms 39:4.

Charles Hicks