Church, Faith, Salvation

Pass/Fail

Originally published March 17, 2011

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?

2 Corinthians 13:5

Remember the story of the ugly duckling?  Somehow a swan’s egg finds its way to a duck’s nest and hatches right along with all the other ducklings.  The swan chick is similar in appearance to the ducklings, but it quickly becomes obvious to all that there’s something different about him.  The swan chick is convinced that he is a duck.  He tries to walk like a duck, quack like a duck– but it doesn’t work.  He can’t figure out what’s wrong with him.

The problem is, the swan chick wasn’t, in fact, a duck.  He might have lived with a duck family.  He might have even learned how to imitate the sounds, habits, and mannerisms of ducks, but sometimes, even though it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck– it isn’t a duck.

Sadly, we have the very same scenario taking place in our churches.  There are swans among us who think they are ducks.  They walk like ducks, quack like ducks, sometimes we’ve even told them they are ducks.  Unlike the duck siblings in the story of the ugly duckling, we don’t, as a rule, pick at them and tease them mercilessly.  We love them, accept them, and assume they are Believers.  Some swans look and sound an awful lot like ducks.

But the fact of the matter is, many– maybe even most –of the people you sit next to in church on Sunday morning are not Believers.  They have never been genuinely converted to Christ and become new creatures.  Some of them know this consciously about themselves and are just trying to fake their way through because church attendance looks good on a resume or in the eyes of their family and friends.  But there are untold thousands who have been deceived into thinking they are saved when, in fact, they are not.  Could you be one of them?

Most of us grew up during a time when there was great pressure on churches to “get the decision” and up their baptism numbers.  Somehow, this is what evangelism was boiled down to.  The pressure started with the higher ups in the denomination and was passed down to individual pastors, who, in turn, passed the pressure on to their church members.  Frankly, this dynamic hasn’t waned much and is still going strong today.

 As a result, the Gospel presentation Jesus preached– we must repent (Luke 5:32), deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23), forsake all else (Luke 14:26), even lose our lives for the Gospel (Mark 8:35) –got watered down and redesigned into the easy believism of, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” and, “Don’t you want to go to heaven when you die?”  Let’s face it, in this culture, dying to self and turning your back on everything that’s comfortable and convenient isn’t an easy sell.

(And if you’ve never heard the truth of the Gospel– that you are guilty of breaking God’s laws, and that God will punish your lawbreaking with an eternity in hell unless you turn away from your sin and place your faith in the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath against you –please take a few minutes to watch the little video in the sidebar, and learn how you can be saved.)

Folks, I don’t care what Rob Bell or any of the other wolves in shepherd’s clothing tell you, Jesus himself said that “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

So how can you tell whether you’ve found that narrow way that leads to life, or if you’re just one of the many who has been deceived?  Don’t bet your salvation on church attendance or service, your own personal “goodness” or even the fact that you recited a “sinner’s prayer” and someone told you that if you “really meant it in your heart,” you were saved.  And certainly, don’t wait until you stand before Jesus when you die to find out (Matthew 7:21-23).

Test yourself.  Examine yourself.  The proof that you’re saved is not simply that you once said a prayer and invited Jesus into your heart.  The proof is in the fruit of your life, right now– today.  Jesus said,

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

Matthew 7:16-17

What does the fruit of a genuine Believer look like?  The MacArthur Study Bible1 has a great tool you can use for examining yourself.  Find a quiet time and place with no distractions, and prayerfully and honestly go over this list with the Lord.  Don’t trust your own opinion of your fruit, ask God to reveal to you what He thinks.

I. Evidences that neither prove nor disprove one’s faith:

a. Visible morality: Matt. 19:16-21, 23:27
b. Intellectual knowledge: Romans 1:21, 2:17ff
c. Religious involvement: Matt. 25:1-10
d. Active Ministry : Matt. 7:21-23
e. Conviction of sin: Acts 24:25
f. Assurance: Matt. 23
g. Time of decision: Luke 8:13-14

II. The fruit /proofs of authentic / true Christianity

a. Love for God: Psalm 42:1ff; 73:25; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7
b. Repentance from sin: Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14ff; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10
c. Genuine Humility: Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9ff.
d. Devotion to God’s Glory: Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7, 48:10ff.; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 10:31
e. Continual Prayer: Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18ff.; Philippians 4:6ff.; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18
f. Selfless Love: 1 John 2:9ff, 3:14; 4:7ff.
g. Separation from the world: 1 Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4ff.; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:5
h. Spiritual Growth: Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16
i. Obedient Living: Matthew 7:21; John 15:14ff.; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5

If list I is true of a person and list II is false or non-evident, then there could be cause to question the validity of one’s profession of faith. If list II is true of a person, then list I will be true as well.

Are you really saved?  Are you sure?  This test isn’t graded on a curve.

1From: MacArthur Study Bible Index Notes, 1997.


Additional Resources

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up

Searching for a new church?

Church, Discernment, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ The Way We Wor(ship)

Originally published on May 22, 2013

mt_sinai

And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.  No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”
Exodus 19:12-13

From Cain and Abel to the Israelites in the wilderness to Ananias and Sapphira, God sets limits on the way we may approach Him. He has always said “whosoever will” may come to Him, but He is just as exacting about the way in which we come to Him today as He was back then.

It’s no small matter that many people in the Bible were put to death for approaching God in anything less than an attitude of utmost awe, fear, and reverence for His holiness. Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord. The Corinthians took the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

I recently heard Perry Noble, a well known leader of a seeker sensitive megachurch, who has done such things as having his church’s band play AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday, say, “I’m willing to offend the church people to reach people for Jesus.” When asked where he drew the line at what was too offensive in church, he went on to say, “I probably wouldn’t have a stripper on stage…” and continued to justify using worldly and irreverent antics in church in order to “bring people to Jesus.”

But Perry has missed the point. Worship isn’t about people and what they like or don’t like. It isn’t about entertaining people and making sure they have some sort of enjoyable or emotional experience. It isn’t about attracting the attention of people.

Worship is about God.

What does God think? How does He want to be worshiped? What does He find offensive?

God is not the God of “anything goes.” If you doubt that, go back to the Old Testament and read His precise instructions on constructing the tabernacle, offering sacrifices, the behavior and duties of priests and Levites, and so on. Anything goes? Far from it.

Christ should be the sun in our solar system of worship. Just as the sun’s gravity exerts just the right force on each planet, keeping them revolving around it in exactly the right path, so, when Christ is at the center of our worship, every song, every prayer, every word spoken will fall into exactly the right orbit around Him.

What about your church? The next time you attend a worship service, sit back and view it through the lens of discernment. Is it designed to make you happy? Comfortable? Entertained? Emotional? Or is every element of the service centered on Christ– His holiness, His sacrifice for sin, His love and grace — leading you to exalt Him and forget about yourself?

Pastors and worship leaders, one day you will answer to God for the way you led your church. Do you design worship services to attract and hold the attention of people, manipulate their emotions, and entertain them, or do you sit at your desk, pray, and consider what will please God, how you can best lift up the name of Christ, expose His glory, and keep things centered on Him? God has not called you to be a shock jock, stand up comedian, or motivational speaker. He has called you to preach Christ and Him crucified.

Let’s stop the silliness and stupidity, and repent. Worship is serious business.

Podcast Appearances

Podcast Guest Appearance – Echo Zoe Radio

It was so great to sit down and chat once again with my friend, Andy Olson for another episode of Echo Zoe Radio!

On previous episodes, we’ve talked about women’s ministry, the New Apostolic Reformation, and even a potpourri of topics! This time, listen in as we discuss Christian Liberty. How can we distinguish between sins or commands of Scripture, and issues of Christian liberty? What are some of the ubiquitous issues of Christian liberty we face today? Tune in and find out!

Click here to listen…

…or check out episode 165 of Echo Zoe radio on your favorite podcast platform!

Visit the Echo Zoe Radio website for more super interviews and articles, and for all the EZR social media links. Subscribe and follow!

Articles / resources mentioned or touched on in the episode:

A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast

Christian Liberty (AWFS episode)

Is Christmas Pagan?

Nativity Scenes and the Second Commandment

Discovering Head Covering

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

The Mailbag: Halloween vs. Yoga? 

Searching for a new church?


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Finding a New Church- Starting from Scratch

Originally published March 29, 2008

When my husband and I have looked for a new church in the past, we’ve had our choices narrowed down for us because we are comfortable in our denomination and are not looking to change. When you’re starting from scratch, you have a lot more choices to wade through, so it can be more difficult. Here are a few guidelines I’d suggest.

1. The absolute most important thing is to find a church that preaches and teaches only what matches up with what the Bible says, and all of what the Bible says. In other words, they shouldn’t be teaching anything that’s clearly contrary to Scripture and they shouldn’t be leaving things out that are unpopular because they’re afraid they won’t attract as many people.

2. Pray about it. Ask God to lead you to exactly the right church in which to serve Him.

3. If you were raised in a particular denomination and felt comfortable in it, that might be a good place to start, either at the same church or a different church of the same denomination.

4. Ask around. Ask Christian friends about their churches and try visiting with them one Sunday. If you end up joining, you have the bonus of already knowing someone.

5. Do your homework. If there’s a particular church or denomination you’re interested in, chances are, they have a web site. There will probably be a section on the web site called “Our Statement of Faith” or something like that. Check that out and make sure all the tenets line up with Scripture. (But do bear in mind a significant number of churches have a perfectly biblical statement of faith “on paper” but they do not adhere to it in practice, or they are unbiblical in an area the statement of faith doesn’t cover. The best a statement of faith can do for you is to weed out some of the really bad churches. It’s not a guarantee that a church is good.) A lot of churches also have their pastor’s sermons and/or their music on line, so you can get a feel for how things go on Sundays. You’ll also be able to find out when services start, what kinds of programs are available, whether or not they have a nursery, etc.

6. “Interview” churches. Most pastors I know would be thrilled to death if a prospective visitor would call up and make an appointment to come in and talk to them about the church. Ask him whatever you want, find out what’s required for membership, share your concerns, etc. He should be able to answer your queries openly and honestly. I would be very leery about attending a church if the pastor seemed secretive about general doctrinal issues, his own background, or church activities. Sometimes just meeting with the pastor will give you an idea of whether or not you want to give the church a try.

7. Try it on for size. You might fall in love with the first church you try, or it might be like shoe shopping and you have to try several before you find one that fits.

Don’t give up. God has a place for you somewhere.


Additional Resources

Searching for a new church? Lots of great church search engines, plus check out the “What to look for in a church” section, especially if you’re a new Believer or coming out of an unbiblical church background.

How Can I Find a Good Church? 

7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

Complementarianism, Podcast Appearances

Podcast Guest Appearance – Servants of Grace

Before all the hubbub of the holidays, I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Dave Jenkins of the Servants of Grace podcast.

Listen in (or watch and listen above) as we delve into the issue of women pastors and why this is such a blight on the modern day church, how the church can support women and foster Titus 2 relationships, and more!

Be sure to check out all of the materials, podcasts, and other contributors at the Servants of Grace website, and find their social media links so you can give them a follow. Also, go subscribe to the Servants of Grace YouTube channel so you’ll never miss an episode, or add it to your queue on your favorite podcast platform.

Articles / resources mentioned or touched on in the episode:

Bible Studies

Speaking Engagements

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

The Servanthood Survey

A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast

Contact & Social Media

Searhing for a new church?


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!