Thursday, July 25, 2013

How many steps did you complete to receive the "free gift" of Salvation?

Is this a "free" gift?

I tell my child that I have an incredible gift for him. However,  in order for the gift to be his, he must:

1. apologize for his bad behavior and sincerely mean it.
2. he must commit to change his ways and follow MY ways for the rest of his life.
3. he must make a decision that he WANTS my gift.
4. he must then approach me, hold out his hands, ask me for the gift, and cooperate with me, as I place the gift into his hands.

If he does all this, he will receive his gift. But...if he chooses to reject my gift, I will damn him to HELL!

Now is this "gift" really a gift...or a REWARD for making the right decision?
 
No, that is NOT a gift.
.
This is a gift: "Dear Son, I have a gift for you. Here it is. I love you more than words can describe", and then I place the gift in my son's lap. No strings attached. The gift is his. He did nothing to receive it. I did everything.

THAT is a gift!

So what is God's free gift?  It is the whole salvation package:  faith, belief, repentance, forgiveness of sins, atonement, and eternal life.   It is ALL free... to those whom God has predestined, before the world existed, for reasons we do not know, to be his children.

18 comments:

  1. How do I know if I have received the free gift and am predestined? How can I know for sure? is that even possible? I can't just rest in God's promises if I don't know I am saved can I? Its that whole sheep and goats thing. How can there be goats in church right next to the sheep, who think they have received the free gift of salvation, but it is really all in vain because they were never predestined? Ugh...I am so confused.

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    1. If you believe in Christ as your Lord and Savior, you ARE saved. You do not need to worry about whether you are the Elect or not. For Lutherans, the only way to lose your salvation is to outright spit in the face of God by rejecting Christ and living a life of ongoing, willful sin.

      The fact that you have faith, even if it is weak, confirms you are saved. The issue of who is and who is not the Elect is something for theologians to argue over. The fact that you are worrying about your Election is evidence that you are saved.

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    2. Thank you for your reply, it helps. I think I spend too much time in my own head trying to pick apart things of theological nature and I just end up totally frustrated and confused.

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    3. You are a believer, brother. You are saved.

      "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you WILL be saved!"

      There is no "may be" in that passage.

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    4. Amen and thank you for reminding me of that passage.
      ps. I'm a sister in Christ :)

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    5. God bless you, my sister!

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  2. The response I usually get is something like "you still have to reach out your hands and take the gift", which you have avoided by saying he puts the gift in your lap. But I know many who would still argue that you have to unwrap it, or pick it up with your hands because if you don't it will fall on the floor when you stand up. People will say anything to defend their "steps". We want partial credit!

    Perhaps the gift is a blanket that He wraps around you. Or it is like being injected with a vaccine. I don't know of any child that accepted a shot from the doctor, but we've all received shots.

    Or it is CPR when you're not breathing, or intubation when you're in a coma, or an electronic deposit in your bank account.

    One day I'll think of the right analogy that people will not be able to refute.

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  3. Don't we have to WANT it? This is confusing. Don't we have to repent(number 1) and want this gift (number 3)? I understand we don't have the power or ability to change ourselves. Also I know we can't actually repent and really be sorry for our sins without God helping us but don't we have to at least WANT this?

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    1. Can a dead man "want" anything? Can a dead man repent?

      Dead men don't do, say, think, or want anything. They are dead, and dead means stone-called dead. However, when we were still dead, God made us alive in Christ.

      So according to the above passages of Scripture, you are made alive FIRST! Then you are free to do with your gift as you wish: Nourish and cherish it by hearing/reading the Word, attending church, partaking of the Lord's Supper, prayer...or abandon it or throw it away. Your wanting and deciding occur AFTER God has quickened you. That means you are already saved, and now that you are saved, you have the choice of allowing your faith to die through neglect or by spitting in God's face and throwing your gift of faith/salvation in the "trash".

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    2. If we are dead, we are dead. Nothing can happen to us. How can there be a free gift for us if we are dead and we don't think, say or want anything? How do we get this gift?
      A quote from the above paragraph: "So according to the above passages of Scripture, you are made alive FIRST! Then you are free to do with your gift as you wish" What passages are you referring to?

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    3. We are SPIRITUALLY dead my friend, not physically dead. We can choose which breakfast cereal to eat, which sports team to follow and who to marry...but we CANNOT choose God, according to the Bible. In Romans chapter 3 God says that "there is none righteous, no not one. NO ONE seeks God."

      Coming to Christ and "accepting him" and making a "decision" for God, is seeking God, and the Bible says that is impossible. Why? In the second chapters of Colossians and Ephesians God says that sinners are spiritually dead. Dead men can't seek God. Dead men can't "accept" anyone. Dead men can't "make a decision" for anyone. Dead men are dead!

      We are spiritually dead as Lazarus was physically dead: we are incapable of ANY spiritual action or decision, just as dead Lazarus was incapable of any physical action or decision.

      But when the Word of God is spoken, such as, "Lazarus, come forth", we immediately become alive, just as Lazarus came to life. Jesus did not ask Lazarus to make a decision, whether or not he wanted to be alive, Jesus spoke and it was so. So too with us. We do not make a decision to become spiritually alive; God speaks and it is so.

      "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."

      That verse tells us that faith is created by God. Faith is created by the Word of God. Faith is not something the sinner conjures up of his own intelligence and maturity.

      "For by grace are you saved, through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, lest any man should boast."

      Faith is a gift from God. The whole "package" of salvation is a gift from God. God gives you the gift of faith through the power of his Word, and you believe.

      So will just anyone who hears the Word believe and be saved? No.

      "For whom he did foreknow, them did he predestine...to be his children"
      "This promise is to you, your children, and those afar off, all those who are called."
      "and all who were appointed by God to believe, believed."

      God chose who he would save before the world existed. At a time of his choosing, not ours, he uses his Word to give us the free gift of faith, we believe, and we are saved.

      As with Lazarus, it is God who decides when to quicken us/make us alive...not Lazarus, not us.

      Ephesians 2 English Standard Version (ESV)

      By Grace Through Faith

      "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b]

      4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

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    4. When I was a teen and was wondering where God was I was seeking for God. This seeking came from hearing God's Word and having it make me look for God? Is that right? Later I was 'born again'. Then this was a gift from God? I followed the outline (so to speak) for being born again earlier and nothing happened. So this only happened when God chose it for me and gave me this as a gift? After reading this post I understand God can quicken me spiritually by His Word. Is this right? Then what? I am given the gift of faith, forgiveness of sin and eternal life thru Jesus? Is this right? I hope I haven't asked too many questions but I am trying to understand all this.

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  4. You did not seek God. Sinners do not seek God (see Romans chapter 3). God's Word did not make you, a sinner, look for God.

    God's Word quickened you to be spiritually alive, giving you faith, and you were born again the moment you believed and repented.

    What do you mean that "nothing happened" when you were born again the first time? Unfortunately, many evangelicals tell people that they will "feel" something when they pray the Sinner's Prayer or any version thereof. There is no where in the Bible that promises you a euphoric experience when you are born again.

    Your feelings do not confirm that you are saved. The promises of God in his Word, confirm you are saved. That is why it requires FAITH, not feelings, to believe.

    Let me review salvation:
    1. God predestined you to be his child before he even spoke the words "Let there be light."
    2. At some point in your life, at a time of HIS choosing, not yours, God exposes you to the Word, either by preaching or reading, it sparks life into your spiritually dead soul, gives you faith, and you believe. You are saved.

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  5. You asked; "What do you mean that "nothing happened" when you were born again the first time?" I mean nothing different happened, like I had no new understanding the first time. The Bible says our eyes will be opened (as I understand) the Bible to say. The second time I became,or asked to be 'born again' the Bible opened up to me. The Bible became alive. The first time I received no 'witness of the spirit'. The second time I felt nothing either as far as some euphoric experience, but when I went home and read the Bible it was alive.

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    1. God saved you the moment you believed and repented. That is when the Bible says that a sinner is born again. If that occurred in your first evangelical "born again" experience, then that is when you were born again. If you intentionally just went through the motions, to please someone else, or just because you felt pressured, and you know in your heart that your conversion was not genuine, then no, you were not saved at that time.

      I'm not sure what you are referring to by having "your eyes opened". Did you feel God speak to you in an inner voice? Did you feel that God moved you to do this or do that, as your evangelical pastor told you that you should if you are a real Christian? Did reading the Bible make you feel something? Did you feel an inner presence or voice speaking to you and telling you what the Bible says?

      If so, then you had an intense emotional experience that you BELIEVE was a spiritual experience. How do you know it was God? Because it felt so good? How do you know that it was the Holy Spirit and not...YOU... and your emotions?

      This is the danger of "feeling" saved. If I have a "feeling" that I am saved...then I do not need faith!

      Faith is the hope and belief that our God keeps his promises without having hard proof (a burning bush, a pillar of fire, or a personal visitation such as to Saul on the Damascus Road)of God's existence. Our salvation is not based on feelings or the intensity of our faith. What happens on the day that something terrible happens to us and our faith is so weak that we hardly recognize it. Are we unsaved again?

      No. Faith is faith, no matter how weak it may be.

      Base your faith and assurance of salvation on the promises of God's Word, not in any emotion, feeling, or intensity of YOUR feelings of faith.

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    2. This is why I believe that Baptism serves such an important role in the Christian faith. Baptism gives us a definite "when" of salvation.

      Example: the conversion of an adult non-believer to Christianity

      Lutheran view of conversion: God, through the power of his spoken or written Word, quickens the man's (or woman's) spiritually dead soul, gives him faith, and he believes and repents. He is now saved. He is now a Christian. If he dies a second later he WILL go to heaven.

      This new believer will then follow God's command and be baptized. In baptism, God marks him as his child. Baptism is this convert's visible proof that he IS saved.

      Now if this man intentionally just went through the motions of salvation and baptism (such as if he did it to get a "hot" Lutheran girl to marry him, baptism did nothing for him other than get him wet! Salvation must always be received through faith. Without faith, the waters of baptism do nothing.

      Evangelical conversion of an adult non-believer:

      The sinner hears the Gospel and makes a decision to believe and repent based upon his intelligence, maturity, and decision-making capabilities. In his mind, he is choosing God. He believes and repents. (We Lutherans believe this man IS saved immediately, regardless of his confusion that HE is choosing God, when it is really GOD choosing him.) If he dies a second later he will go to heaven.

      This evangelical Christian convert then undergoes baptism as a public profession of his faith.

      So his salvation is based on HIS decision.
      His baptism was all about HIS act of professing his faith.

      So later in life when doubts come as to his salvation, what solid evidence can he fall back on? Was HIS decision to believe truly genuine? Did HE truly repent? Did HE truly believe? Did HE really understand what he was doing?

      So what evidence does this convert have to assure him that he is saved? Answer: his feelings! "Do I feel that I did 'it' right?"

      That is pretty shaky ground upon which to base your assurance of salvation!

      What assurance does a Lutheran adult convert have?

      1. "Did I intentionally fake my conversion?" No. This is a fact not a feeling. You know if you intentionally did something or not.
      2. "Has God placed his seal/his mark on me as his child in Holy Baptism?" Yes. This is a fact, not a feeling.
      3. Do I believe and trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at this very moment, even if it is very, very weak faith and trust? In other words, have I explicitly rejected Christ? Have a made an explicit decision to abandon my Faith? Have I made an explicit decision to live a life of on-going, willful sin?

      "Yes, my faith and trust, however weak, is in Christ. I have not consciously rejected Christ as my Lord and Savior."

      Those are facts, not feelings.

      That is how an adult Lutheran Christian can know for sure, "I AM saved!"

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    3. I will comment on what you wrote. My reply is in caps: "I'm not sure what you are referring to by having your eyes opened. Did you feel God speak to you in an inner voice?" THE BIBLE OPENED UP TO ME. I COULD UNDERSTAND IT IN WAYS I COULD NOT BEFORE. GOD DID NOT SPEAK TO ME IN AN INNER VOICE BUT THE BIBLE WAS NEW AND ALIVE TO ME. GOD DID NOT MOVE ME TO DO THIS OR THAT. "Did you feel that God moved you to do this or do that, as your evangelical pastor (MY PASTOR WAS AN LCMS PASTOR NOT AN EVANGELICAL PASTOR. I WAS LCMS THRU AND THRU) told you that you should if you are a real Christian? MY PASTOR DID NOT TELL ME ANYTHING LIKE THIS NOR DID HE BELIEVE THIS. Did reading the Bible make you feel something? Did you feel an inner presence or voice speaking to you and telling you what the Bible says?" NO, THERE WAS NO INNER VOICE MAKING ME 'FEEL SOMETHING' THERE WAS NO INNER VOICE SPEAKING TO ME. BUT AS THE DISCIPLES ON THE ROAD HAD THEIR EYES OPENED TO SEE JESUS AFTER JESUS RESURECTION, I HAD NEW EYES TO UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE. "If so, then you had an intense emotional experience that you BELIEVE was a spiritual experience. How do you know it was God? Because it felt so good? How do you know that it was the Holy Spirit and not...YOU... and your emotions?" NO I DID NOT HAVE AN INTENSE EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE. IT DID NOT 'FEEL SO GOOD' I DID NOT HAVE EMOTIONS THAT WERE SO GREAT THAT I THOUGHT WAS THE HOLY SPIRIT. YOU SEEM TO THINK I HAD SOME EXPERIENCE THAT I DID NOT HAVE GARY. ALL THAT HAPPENED WAS I SAW THE BIBLE WITH A NEW UNDERSTANDING. THUS MY EYES WERE OPENED. YOU THINK I HAD SOME BIG EXPERINCE BUT I DIDNT. I MENTIONED THAT IN MY JULY 28TH POST--THAT I HAD NO EUPHORIC EXPERIENCE BUT YOU MISSED MY COMMENT ON THAT. I MERELY WONDERED WHAT HAPPENED TO ME BUT AGAIN, THERE WAS NO BIG (OR EVEN A SMALL) EMOTIONAL EXPERINCE.

      I wrote using caps to separate your comments from mine . They were not meant to be rude.

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    4. I apologize for misunderstanding your comments.

      The fact that you have faith is evidence of your salvation. Hopefully you have been baptized. That is when God marks you as "Property of the King and Kings and Lord of Heaven and Earth".

      Not everyone is saved at the time of his or her baptism. Some are saved prior to baptism when they hear the Gospel and believe, such as what happened with me. But in Baptism we receive God's mark, his seal. Our baptism is our proof that God saved us, and our faith, no matter how weak, confirms to us everyday that we are saved.

      Only by outright rejection of God and ongoing willful sin can a Christian lose his salvation. Good works do not help or keep you saved...only faith, which was given to you as a gift from God, not of YOUR works, lest any man would boast.

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I welcome all constructive comments, praise and criticism.

Has this blog changed your views on the Christian faith?