Category Archives: Salvation

Doctrine

What I like about WordPress is that I am able to see how people found my blog.  Most of the time my blog is found it through the search engines.  One of the phrases that seems to show up often is “What do Wesleyans believe?”  Well, obviously we are Christian Protestants in the the Evangelical persuasion and should be thought of as believers who see themselves as part of the Holiness movement.  Therefore, I thought I would post our foundational beliefs along with the Calvinist viewpoint for a bit of comparison.

I will start with what Calvinists generally believe, although there is some variance, taken from the famous TULIP:

  1. Total Depravity: The personality, mind, body, and soul of a person is totally depraved.  Devoid of any ability to will spiritual good toward salvation.  There is nothing in us that can bring about salvation.  We are born with Original Sin inherited from Adam..  Regeneration occurs before faith.
  2. Unconditional Election: God has chosen some for salvation.  He has done so without regard for the decisions of those who have been chosen (Elect).  God elects, chooses, some to everlasting life no matter how hard-hearted.  He also elects others to eternal damnation.
  3. Limited Atonement: Christ died only for those whom God has chosen.  Therefore, those who are elect received salvation through His shed Blood.  Through the Blood of the Cross, Christ has redeemed by cleansing from Original Sin and sin committed before and after receiving faith, chosen ones from every tribe, nation, and language.
  4. Irresistible Grace: The Holy Spirit gives an irresistible urge to be saved to those who are elect.  Basically known as effectually drawing them to Christ so that they come most freely to that which is good.
  5. Perseverance of the Saints: Those who are chosen, or elect, will persevere to the end.  They cannot fall away from the state of grace.  They cannot lose their salvation.

Wesleyans are Wesleyan-Arminian.  Our beliefs were greatly influenced by John Wesley and James Arminius.  Here is what we believe:

  1. Limited Depravity: People are deep in sin, but God has extended His grace to all so that everyone can be saved if they “will.”  Faith occurs before regeneration.
  2. Conditional Election: God has called everyone to salvation, though many whom He has called do not respond.
  3. General Atonement: Christ’s Blood was shed and is available for all.  It is applied to those who respond to His offer of salvation.
  4. Prevenient Grace: God has given prevenient grace to all, which draws them toward saving grace, but the individual is not forced to respond to God’s grace.
  5. Conditional Security: Once saved, a person will always be saved unless by defiant, continued, purposeful rebellion, they refuse grace and choose apostasy.

Here are some useful links: TULIP, Arminius’ Remonstrance. and The Wesleyan Church.

These beliefs are just two doctrinal points of view within the Protestant Church.  I suggest that if you are someone who wants to compare what people believe, then you need to go to their website.  Often mainstream denominations will have their Articles of Religion posted.  However, churches that are autonomous, meaning independant or associations, may not have websites.  This means that you would have to ask the pastor if you could see what they have printed about what they believe.

Often, many assume that everyone believes the same things.  Yet, many times Protestants only agree on a few things.  In fact, I caution you that if you ask a pastor, or someone involved in a different church, what a church associated in a different denomination believes, you should not expect total accuracy.  Sometimes people take liberty in turning what another church believes into something outlandish.

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Filed under Christianity, Eternal Security, Holiness, Salvation, The Wesleyan Church

Why I am hardcore about listing salvtions

For years I’ve struggled with churches who list salvations and “celebrate,” their victories.  As a pastor, I know that I already seem awful for writing this sentence.  Yet, it really isn’t my intention to take away joy.  My purpose is to question whether or not we, as pastors, are capturing the truth of the Bible.

Consider repentance.  Most agree that repentance is a requirement for salvation.  There are two different types of repentance in the Bible.  One type of repentance is worldly.  This repentance is illustrated by someone who is sorrowful about his or her situation.  This is much like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.  He was sorry because he had betrayed an innocent man.  So to escape his situation he was sorry enough to hang himself.  We may assume that he likely did not receive salvation since he did not adequately repent; and since Jesus said it was going to be bad for the person who betrayed him.

In the Bible, the repentance that leads to eternal life is known by many to be Godly repentance.  This repentance occurs when someone is sorry for his or her sin.  In fact, they are sorry enough to change his or her life from living a life of disobedience to a life of obedience.  This is foundational for salvation.  Paul, also known as Saul before his conversion, is a great example of this type of repentance since his life was completely changed on the Damascus Road.

Many pastors and theologians are now questioning “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  The concern is that many are simply hanging their hats on simply believing in Jesus and that phrase itself as if there is nothing left to do.  While I continue to use this phrase, since it helps me to explain to someone what salvation looks like, I also realize that many pray this prayer and do not really commit to the Lord.  Herein lies the problem for listing, or counting, salvations for everyone to see.  If these people never bear fruit and have nothing more to do with church, then they cannot be counted.  They are still in their old lives and not new life in Christ.

Let’s look at confession now.  Yes, I said confession.  It is biblical and not solely Catholic (Roman), but it is catholic (universal).  In fact, in the Bible we are told to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16).  But, in today’s modern church, we simply ask people to raise their hands if they want to receive Christ as their Savior.  I see reports on Facebook sometimes where members of a church talk about people receiving Christ in services and use numbers anywhere from 10-3000!  This is great news!  Yet, when you investigate what this might have looked like, these salvations were seen by a show of hands.  What about confession?

Consider John the Baptist for a moment.  When he called on Israel to repent, he did not ask for a show of hands.  He asked them to come forward to be baptized.  What of confession?  Who did those who “received” Christ confess their sins too?  I guess we could say to Jesus, but what of “to each other?”  Who will hold them accountable so that it can be measurable, really, whether or not they were actually saved?

Consider the idea of believing.  Belief is a multi-use word in our society.  For example, I believe The Statue of Liberty exists; though I have not experienced it.  I have not shaped my life after it; but I do give it patriotic praise during wartime.  Again, I believe in air which has impacted my life because I can’t stay underwater long if I should choose and I know that I am sustained by it.  Yet, while on dry land I think nothing of it.  However, believing in Jesus goes beyond that of the demons since He does have my respect.  I now use the term believe to reveal that I have staked my entire being on Him and His ability to save me physically and spiritually.  When I use that term in that way it dwarfs when I use the word believe in the context of The Statue of Liberty.  Same word, but two different intentions and outcomes.

Do those who are counted as salvations really understand what it means to believe, and how it impacts your whole life with a simple hand-raise?  We haven’t talked about Vacation Bible School yet.

What about receiving?  Reception seems to look like transformation as the result of receiving.  I am amazed on a regular basis that fruit never seems to be measurable from those who raise their hands to be saved; except in attendance at church on Sundays.  Transformation often does not take place in such a way that fruit can be measured outside of a church setting.  I likely sound judgmental.  Yet, Paul and Jesus seemed to believe that we could see the results of someone’s salvation easily.

I write this so that we can get a discussion going about what real salvation looks like.  In fact, if my concerns are valid, then people need to reexamine whether or not they received Christ.  Further, this could mean that The Church in America is worse off than we realize since numbers may be skewed.  Again, I will say that if everyone, who we like to claim is really saved is really saved, then the impact of The Church in America would not have to resort to politics to change the country, but the country would be changed by transformed lives.

I feel more comfortable to say that my church had a certain amount of salvations when people are conquering evil in their lives.  I feel comfortable when these people are active in church, and out of church.  Often churches will record many salvations, yet their attendance numbers do not change.  My fear is that we are creating manipulative excitement in order to make our churches look wonderful.  And that we are competing church with church through these possibly skewed numbers.  This is why I’m hardcore about salvations listing.

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Rethinking the Christian fight for America

I often wonder what types of things that I would think about and do if I wasn’t a Christian.  In particular, I wonder about those situations that occur in my life that I didn’t create.  In other words, would I handle certain situations different as a person who doesn’t care about what God thinks?  I think the obvious answer is yes.

On the other hand, I wonder if there are some things that I would like to do differently as a wiser Christian.  What I mean is maybe there are some situations and issues that I found myself in as a young Christian that I would like to do over.  My guess is that anyone who thinks there isn’t anything they would like to do over is full of self and likely thinks, “I am right.” “Everyone else is wrong.”

Since I’ve been a Christian I have seen an evolution take place in my life; maybe I should say a type of transformation in my life.  When I came to Christ I joined the “fight.”  All I knew was that I wanted to “do” for Jesus.  I remember yelling at family members who did not want to get saved.  Some of them I talked to them daily about getting saved.  Needless to say, they avoided me after a while, and looking back I don’t blame them.

Some of the “fight” was to “re-take” America.  I remember boycotting Walt Disney, shopping malls because they allowed certain “bad” stores to do business in them, ABC, and the list goes on.  I assure you that my motives were not bad.  I just wanted people to live for Christ.  Politics and preaching were important to me if “we” were going to take back America.

What happened to me was that I realized that we Christians who want to take America back actually created an “us” and “them” scenario.  There was a wall built between “us” and “them” that created a disconnect from God and His children.  The children being those who He created in His Image.  This includes both “us” and “them.”  We Christians were in one camp, and many still are, while those who did not believe the exact way we did were in another camp.

In our camp, we knew that the other camp was going to get theirs one day for all of the bad they have done to America.  But, the funny thing is that we in our camp never realized that we might what we deserve for all of the bad we have done to the Kingdom of God.  After all, we are the “enlightened ones” who know the will of God and understand His mission.  We should realize that there will be accountability for us too.

Consider that there are two camps, at least according to our thinking and behavior.  This means that those who follow Jesus are not living among them like Jesus did; and still does through the Holy Spirit.  Our message to the world has been, “Think and act like we do or we are leaving your behind to suffer.”  We haven’t communicated that God loves them and wants good for them and us.  He wants to be the Father that many of us haven’t had and wants to care for us while teaching us to care about others.

As a result of this misguided motivation, we have caused those in the other camp who try to venture to ours, to think that they have to get themselves together.  In other words, they need to clean up their lifestyles and then come to church.  At least that is what they’ve heard from us, whether or not we meant to communicate that.  Wow, Jesus is still cleaning me up because I can’t do and would never be able to do it; that is why we needed saved by the Savior.  In fact, they don’t see this because we have avoided contact with those who do not believe the way we do.

Thankfully, God began to remake me and to work on my focus.  I learned some time ago that those political fights lead us no where.  In fact, seeking a political solution to certain issues instead of a spiritual solution has created disdain from Christians toward those who practice different lifestyles.  Further, it has created disdain from those who are secular toward Christians too.  After all, before I was a Christian I didn’t care what Christians thought of me.  What is more, I didn’t care what the Bible said, and only a little about what God thought.  In fact, I’m not sure that I was afraid to go to hell.  I heard you gasp.  Listen, I felt that my life had always been hell.  I was used to it.

Now we come to the fight that The Church should’ve been more vocal about rather than political issues.  We Christians must learn to put coercion aside and focus persuasiveness when it comes to sharing Christ with those who are not living for Him.  Notice I didn’t use the term “Those who do not know Him.”  Newsflash! There are many who are aware of who Jesus is, or at least a version of Jesus, but sadly, we established the wrong fights and communicated that some shouldn’t even try to be saved.

I propose that The American Church get up in arms over all the hurting people who have felt pain all of their lives.  What I mean, instead of fighting to get prayer back in school, we should fight to get it back into homes.  In fact, we should be teaching “Christians” how to love like Jesus does.  This eliminates disdain, since we can’t possibly lead anyone to Christ through disdain.  What if Christians started caring for the community that they find themselves in instead of fighting against it all of the time.  Can you imagine telling someone who has not known the love of a father and mother that Jesus loves them?  How about telling someone that God never meant for them to suffer like they have?  Of course, this would have to replace the famous, “Well, God has a reason.”

What if we focused on developing healthy relationships with those who have none?  I think sometimes we Christians have become so used to our camp that we have forgotten to set those in the other camp free by persuading them to receive Christ’s love and ours.  To do this, at least in my mind, we can’t just settle for a food drive event, or a clothing drive, and etc. Instead we have to be willing to develop a lifestyle, everyday way of living, that includes living among those who are not following Jesus.

This proposal eliminates the camps structure and leads to win others through love and compassion.  Plus it takes the hope out of politics and places it back on Jesus Christ with a demonstration of the peaceful life, that if trouble comes, has hope for this life now through Jesus our Lord.  This demonstration is not the type where we can put our Christian masks on for and event, but we have to be transformed because we are living among those who are learing about Christ and His love through watching us and trusting us enough to learn from Him through us.

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Filed under Discipleship, God, Living it, Missional Resources, Relationships, Sacrifice, Salvation

Believing toward freedom

Before I came into a relationship with Jesus Christ, there was a point in my life that I wanted to be a good person.  In fact, I desired to become a good person for several reasons, such as, I felt sick about how I didn’t care for others, I wanted to be respected in the community, I wanted my wife to have a good husband, and I wanted to be different so that my children would not behave as I did.  What I found was that while I tried to do these things, I could not achieve peace with myself about the results.  Now the results were not simply centered around right actions; they also included right thoughts along with right actions.  I soon found that I could not become the person I wanted to be.

After a few years of trying to be different, I decided to try God.  I thought that if I got saved that somehow that would establish me as the person that I longed to be.  I decided to read the Bible, mostly because I didn’t know many Christians who would help me and from my experience I did not want to be associated with them.  As I read, I found that God had an entirely different plan for, not just my life, humanity as whole.  This knowledge enlightened me to the point that it became about desiring to know this God of the Bible instead of simply being saved.

Many people who are not associated with a community of believers realize that there is something missing in their lives as I did.  The problem is that God has outlined what is best for us in the Bible, but we generally do not find out for ourselves.  Instead, we rely on other Christians to tell us spiritual things that will make us feel better.  The problem is that most Evangelical Christians get stuck at the point of belief.  What I mean is that most simply point out that believing is what God does to make you and I saved.  Then the problem becomes that you and I, who have not been associated with church, find that we are still the same persons we were before getting saved.

Finding out that nothing has changed, both internally and externally, becomes troubling to those of us who have not been properly pointed to Christ.  After all, Evangelicals simply believe that we should get saved to avoid hell and to be ready for when we die or Jesus Returns.  This type of believing causes many of us who are giving church and Jesus a try to give up.  We learn quickly that simply believing has not helped us in this life now.  We are still in bondage to our poor attitudes and behaviors.  Yet, those of us who will turn to the Bible can learn that Jesus wants humanity to believe toward freedom.

Believing toward freedom, means to me, now that we believe in Jesus Christ and received Him as our Savior, what does that demand that we do?  Think about; the Bible is full of God’s plan for His people and continually communicating the importance of being different. This is where much of our problem occurs.  God wants us to be different from who we were before we established a relationship with Jesus.  Yet, we Evangelicals continue to be reluctant to tell those outside of the Kingdom, along with those who are new in the Kingdom, that God expects our belief in Jesus to bring us into freedom.  Freedom is being free from the internal and external issues that troubled us in the first place, which is why we investigated who Jesus Christ is.

God wants us to do more than simply believe in Jesus.  He wants us to become more like Jesus.  In fact, if we don’t and simply are satisfied to just believe, then are we really saved?  These are questions that are age-old, but these may need to be wrestled with again in the Evangelical circles.  Consider the Fruits of the Spirit, these are those characteristics that I longed to have but could not on my own.  Why?  Because Jesus was not involved in the change.  In fact, simply just believing in Jesus can also lead to Jesus being uninvolved in our character reconstruction.  The Fruits represent the freedom to be who, I and Jesus, desire me to be.

This is what I call believing toward freedom.  Freedom means that I am not locked into the hatred, jealousy, pride, and anger I felt all of time anymore.  So if you are someone who believes in Jesus, but you are not free to love God and others that would demonstrate that you are becoming more like Jesus, then you may not really be saved.  My Jesus came to set the captives free.

Here’s what you need to do.  Seek Him with all of your heart.  In other words, you have to desire Him for more than just avoiding hell.  You need to seek Him while surrendering yourself to Him so that He has the freedom mold and shape you into someone He wants you to be; this better than the person you tried to become without Him.  Pray to Him regularly.  Read His Word regularly.  Meditate on Him and His Word regularly.  Incorporate His commands into your new lifestyle.  Don’t give up.  If you surrender you life in these ways, then you will have the freedom be the person that loves God and others.

We need Christians to start teaching lifestyle change instead of lifestyle acceptance.  We need Christians to teach lifestyle change now instead wait until later change.  The Church needs people who model this change in a positive light instead of an unhappy negative light.  Believing toward freedom makes more sense than simply believe and you will be saved.  So what are you going to do about it?  Believe toward freedom.

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Questioning salvation

As a pastor, I commonly hear other pastors who share about salvations and baptisms that take place at their churches.  I genuinely rejoice with them.  I don’t have many at my church and that does not mean that my church is not doing Kingdom work.   We still have several a year.  I want to establish that in my introduction because you should know the context I am writing from.  That way you can disagree with me and find flaws all day long in what I write on this subject of understanding salvation.

I write from a Wesleyan-Arminian point of view and that is mixed with experience.  A lot of my theology comes from reading my Bible and relating Scripture to what I believe I have experienced personally with Jesus Christ in my life.  However, I do not necessarily rule out completely all aspects of Calvinism.  Therefore, what I am writing does not always dispute Calvinism; except the more extreme point of view of living a life of sin and still being thought of as “saved” according to reciting The Sinner’s Prayer once.

The issue we must wrestle with is can we say someone is really saved as often as we have heard it?  Especially in the rather large numbers that some suggest?  It is possible, but we should consider what seems to be real, and reasonable, salvation.  This has to be wrestled with because if people are coming to Jesus Christ in the droves that we hear about, then we should see serious transformation of our local communities.  After all, if the Spirit of Christ is now dwelling in those who have been “saved,” then we should see many people living their lives in complete reverse of how they were living them before.

As I understand salvation, I realize that my heart has been regenerated.  This means that my heart is made new.  Or, restored to a point that I am no longer at war with God by the way I live my life.  Of course discipleship as a process and learning under the influence of the Holy Spirit will guide me and help me to change. With that type of understanding of being taught by Jesus, we have to say that when someone has a real experience with Jesus Christ there is a very noticeable change in the beginning of their new life.  In fact, others can see it and will question that person about why they are acting different.

Many times I hear pastors ask people to raise their hands if they repeated after them that they believe in Jesus Christ.  That is great to believe, but did that person repeating The Sinner’s Prayer really repent?  Frankly, you will not know until after that person has been placed in the same situations that tempted him or her to sin, and the result is that he or she chooses the way of Christ instead of sin.

I think that Calvinists and Wesleyan-Arminians would agree that if there is not fruit that demonstrates a change in the heart of the person, then that person has not been regenerated, or born again.  If this be so, then this may change the amount of people mentioned on a regular basis that many say our saved.  Let me talk out of the other side of my mouth now.  If someone repeats The Sinner’s Prayer with me, then I will share that with others and say they are “saved” too.  I think this is because we do not know what to do with that result, and this is the reminder that only God knows who is really saved.

I think that it is time to reconsider our great need to speak about numbers.  I also think that we need to explore different terminology that communicates salvation, but with the understanding that the person has begun his or her race with Jesus and now the person has to decide to finish as well.  Whether you believe in Eternal Security or not, you have to put that aside and ask yourself whether or not salvations are really taking place.  Further, I do not think that I even have to tap the issue of water baptism because, although Christians should be water baptized, we all know that someone can go down a dry sinner and come back up a wet sinner, which means not a saint.  Most of us have known personally people who fit this description.

Let me be clear in case you think that I am saying that people are perfect after salvation.  I am referring to people who make significant lifestyle changes after receiving Christ.  Yet, they will still stumble as they continue to strive to be guided more by the Nature of Christ that was pronounced to be birthed in them.  Nevertheless, they should be actively running the race with those who are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Salvation cannot include in it that you can still live your life in a similar way that you did before because you “prayed” The Sinner’s Prayer.  In fact, your life is centered around building up Christ’s Kingdom instead yours.  Seeing people building up The Kingdom is the sign that transformation has indeed taken place in their hearts.  This is why I feel a little leery of people raising their hands and believing they are now really dead to the flesh.

It seems to me that evidence should be considered before the pronouncement by those of us in ministry.  I think if we carefully reconsider our quick pronouncements of salvation and look for evidences of regeneration, then we would see different numbers that are more accurate in the long run.  My fear is that The Church and those who are without Jesus are confused about where they are in relation to each other.  Therefore, I wonder if instead we should consider being saved as a more accurate way of describing salvation.

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