Our Wretchedness, His Grace

2e38e-cross2bof2bpeaceHow frustrating! That besetting sin you thought you’d conquered has reared its ugly head yet again, and you’ve allowed it to take control. Of course you know that Christ forgives, but you also know that He saved you in order that you would walk in holiness and obedience.

You feel the same frustration that all true Christians feel. Our love for the Lord naturally causes us to hate sin. Even the apostle Paul felt disgusted with himself when he disobeyed God’s commandments (see Romans 7:13-24).

We understand — intellectually, at least — that Jesus forgives our sin at the point of our conversion. That’s a joyous realization for the sinner who correctly sees his or her wretched state and consequently appreciates the Lord’s mercy and grace to take those sins on Himself in order to extend pardon. We rightly praise Him for declaring us to be righteous before a holy Judge, all because of His blood shed on our behalf.

But will His precious blood also cover sins we commit as Christians? Many people genuinely struggle with fear that they’ve presumed on His grace once too often, or that their ongoing battle with sin gives evidence that they never experienced true salvation in the first place.

Certainly, many people who sincerely believe themselves to be Christians aren’t. I often write about false converts, convinced that evangelical churches overflow with them. And if your sin causes you to examine yourself to determine whether or not you’ve really been born again, praise the Lord!

But let’s add some balance to our self-examination, shall we? Yes, we’ve once again dishonored our Savior, and that awareness by all means should break our hearts. However, the very fact that we grieve over having offended Christ indicates that He has given us hearts like His that hate sin and love righteousness. False converts excuse sin, grieving only that someone caught them or that they have unpleasant consequences, but true Christians regard sin as the vile reason that our precious Lord suffered and bled and died.

The very fact that we experience frustration over our sin assures us that the Holy Spirit has transformed us so that we now resemble our heavenly Father. Only those who are born again have that heavenly trait. Though we rightly bemoan our wretched sin nature, we also rejoice that the Holy Spirit has regenerated our hearts so that we no longer celebrate our sin.

Finally, we don’t need to despair that our sins, as grievous as they truly are, will always cripple us or cause God to reject us. Rather than focusing on our wretched condition, we can concentrate on the Lord as our Savior, remembering Paul’s glorious conclusion in Romans 7:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:24-25 (ESV)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Neither Homosexuality Nor Anger (Nor Any Other Sin) Is Reason

Rainbow Bible02Currently, false converts are “leaving” the faith over the issue of homosexuality. Many claim to still be Christians, but a few have been honest enough to admit that they no longer believe the Bible.  Either way, they reject time-honored Christian teaching in order to practice or support this one particular sin.

Having known many friends who experienced same sex attractions, I really do know that nobody deliberately chooses homosexuality. During my 12 years as a correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, I wrote to hundreds of men and women who struggled with desires that they didn’t want. So, before you accuse me of being a heartless bigot, understand that I actually realize some (and possibly a lot) of what LBGTQ  people go through.

But I also know that every Christian struggles with at least one sin that seems intrinsic to his or her very being. In my case, it’s anger. Try as I may to twist Scripture into qualifying my anger as “righteous indignation,” God’s Word relentlessly convicts me that it’s really nothing more than selfish pride.

Now, I could leave the Lord in favor of my sin of anger, either by manipulating Scripture to justify it or by turning my back on Christianity outright. I’ve considered both options at various points in my life, if you want to know the truth. Repentance seemed too difficult, and humility didn’t appeal to me at all.

Other pet sins in my life have also tempted me to part ways with Christ, either by returning to a liberal denomination or by chucking Him altogether. Usually the latter. But, like the Twelve when Jesus asked if they wanted to join the crowds who left Him, I had one answer:

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:68-69 (ESV)

I know denying homosexual urges is hard and painful. And I know from first hand experience that standing by Scripture’s teaching that homosexuality is sinful causes pain. As Western culture grows increasingly intolerant of Christians who stand against homosexuality, I expect that I’ll experience even greater hardship for failing to adjust my theology to LBGTQ demands.

LBGTQ issues have already exposed many false converts. These false converts would rather compromise or reject God’s holy Word than resist illicit sexual temptation or cultural pressure. Although I understand their predicament, however, I must remember Who has the words of eternal life. He is the One I must follow.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

False Converts Who Embrace Worldliness: Part 2

Narrow Gate

Yesterday I asked you to read Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount) in preparation for today’s blog post. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can do so here. In this sermon, Christ lays out the high moral demands of a holy God, thereby demonstrating our abject need for a Savior.  None of us, apart from His grace, has the capacity to live in such holiness.

Notice, then, His command in Chapter 7:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~~Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

As we learn in John 10:7-9, Jesus Himself is the door (or gate). That reality carries several implications that frankly go against fleshly inclinations. Obviously, the primary stumbling block is the implication that only Christians will inherit God’s Kingdom. Such exclusivity flies in the face of our 21st Century value of inclusion. How dare the Lord limit salvation to those who would believe in Him!

Even more repulsive to postmodern sensibilities is the implication that Jesus would impose His morality on anyone. False converts may be okay with the idea of Jesus dying for their sins, but they then want to conclude that His grace gives them permission to continue in sin. Or they use incredible semantics to to explain why the apostles listed certain behaviors as sinful that we now understand to be perfectly acceptable.

In short, false converts reject Matthew 7:13-14 in favor of having a Jesus Who accepts them on their terms rather than His. If He must be the only Savior, at least He should save everyone (regardless of whether or not they believe in Him) and He shouldn’t tell anyone how to conduct their lives.

False converts miss the fact that, because He is Lord, Jesus has every right to determine both the criteria for salvation and the way His redeemed people ought to live. Thankfully, true believers accept His exclusivity and depend on His Spirit for the power to live in obedience to Him.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

False Converts Who Embrace Worldliness: Part 1


The most common false convert is the person who justifies personal sin. Some, as I noted yesterday, use their religious activity as a cover for their secret sins, perhaps assuring themselves that the work they do for the Kingdom offsets their besetting sins.

Sure, they’ve repented of outward manifestations of sin, but they excuse thoughts and attitudes that only the Lord sees. Additionally, they justify socially acceptable sins like anger, envy and gossip, often putting a spiritual spin on them to convince themselves and others that they’re using those emotions righteously. I may write about these false converts in future essays.

But today I want to concentrate on false converts who don’t even attempt to hide their affinity with sin and worldliness. Much of the time, they don’t even perceive a contradiction between how they live and their Christian profession. They enjoy sex outside of heterosexual marriage, use blasphemous language, disrespect people in authority and approve of homosexual behavior while claiming to love Jesus and believe the Bible.

Please, I’m not talking about newly saved Christians who haven’t yet been exposed to God’s Word and good Biblical teaching. Of course young believers (especially if they haven’t read the Bible or been in sound churches prior to salvation) will retain worldly ideas early in their walks with the Lord. They mustn’t be expected to instantaneously understand all the implications of their new faith. For that matter, people like me who have walked with Jesus for decades still have much to learn about following Christ.

Rather, I’m talking about people who make professions of faith,  get baptized and maybe even become active in church, but never really sense their need to repent. They call Jesus their buddy, and sometimes they even read Scripture for a few minutes each day (usually applying it out of context), but their lives never really show any concern for personal holiness or God’s  glory.

Basically, these false converts imagine Jesus as a tolerant and inclusive God Who freely dispenses grace without demanding anything from them. Within this category of false converts, there are different variations and an interesting spectrum of beliefs, but the common thread is an embrace of worldly values.

Tomorrow we’ll continue looking at professing Christians who embrace the world by examining Christ’s words regarding entering His Kingdom. For now, let me encourage you to read Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount) to get a glimpse of Jesus’ commitment to holiness. We’ll start from that point to see why a mere profession of faith doesn’t equal genuine conversion.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Sin Of False Converts

Serious Little Boy01When I first understood that someone could be falsely converted, I began wondering about the validity of my own salvation. This anxiety increased as I came to Reformed Theology and realized that I had received several erroneous teachings during the first three decades of my Christian life.

In one respect, Scripture commands such introspection (2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Peter 1:10). Many who consider themselves to be Christians don’t exhibit the qualities of those who have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. We’ll elaborate on that point momentarily.

But that introspection should never make doctrinal perfection the measuring rod for judging salvation. Although I rejected the doctrine of election for quite some time, for example, I believed that Jesus died for my sin and therefore I owed Him my life. I trusted Him as my Savior. He had elected me whether I believed in election or not, as evidenced by the faith He gave me to trust in His work of atonement.

Yet I struggled greatly to believe that my repeated sins wouldn’t eventually cause the Lord to revoke His saving grace. His own words troubled me:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ~~Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Had all my supposed ministry for the Lord been meaningless because of my sins? In my case, no. As much as I allow myself to sin, the Holy Spirit faithfully convicts me until I repent.  I then cling to the cross, assured that Christ has given me His righteousness. My trust reverts to His work rather than my own.

False converts, on the other hand, point to their apparent good works in an effort to distract God from their sinful lifestyles.  Jesus rightly calls them workers of lawlessness, cutting through their self-righteousness to expose their lack of repentance and trust in Him alone.

Dear reader, if you attribute your salvation to anything you’ve done (even saying a prayer or walking down an aisle too respond to an altar call), please examine yourself today. Are you trusting Christ’s shed blood on the cross, or do you proudly point to something you’ve supposedly done to merit His favor. If you dare to base your salvation on anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ, prepare to hear Him declare that He never knew you.


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

When They Leave The Truth

Missing Angel

Over the years, I’d watch various friends slip away from solid Biblical teachings, either embracing liberal theology or denying the Lord altogether. Some had been in high leadership positions (a few were even pastors) and appeared to know the Bible well. Many were with me at the Bible College in Wales. I served with others in various ministries.

With each departure from the faith, I’d grieve, wondering how these dear friends could fall into deception. They read the same Bible I read, yet ultimately they turned from its teachings to pursue yoga, homosexuality, Catholicism or even atheism.

But in the past five or six years, I’ve come into contact with the Biblical teaching of false conversion. Of  course, Jesus taught very explicitly about false conversion in His parables, but I had difficulty making the connection.

There are several parables I could cite today, but I’ll confine myself to one of the better known ones.

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’ ~~Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)

The grain in this parable represents true Christians, while the weeds represent false converts. Here, the false converts remain with the Church until Judgment Day. Or so it seems.

Since Jesus will rapture the Church before He brings judgment on the world (as Elizabeth Prata explains), perhaps the gathering of weeds refers to the apparent falling away of people who always appeared to be true believers. Admittedly, I haven’t read any commentaries on Matthew 13:24-3, but it fits with 1 John 2:19.Whether soon after conversion or many years later, false converts will be separated from the Church, proving that they never really had saving faith in the first place.

False converts may put on a good act for years, or even decades, but eventually something happens that causes them to prove that their true allegiance is with the world, the flesh and the devil rather than with Christ. It always hurts to see their rejection of the truth, and sometimes the change takes us by surprise.

It’s especially devastating when the false convert has been in ministry with you. I’ve experienced this tragedy more than once, watching people who even held positions of leadership over me turn back to homosexuality, sometimes even denying basic doctrines like hell and salvation only through Jesus Christ.

Knowing that these beloved friends never really had salvation doesn’t take away the pain of seeing them reject the Lord, but at least it clears up a lot of the confusion. I grieve over the directions their lives have taken. I know that they settle for so much less than they could have had in Christ, and  I fear for their souls. But at least I understand that they never knew Him. That knowledge gives me hope that some day they might come to true salvation. What a splendid hope!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: Avoid False Teachers

Titus 3 9 thru 11

In the past few weeks our study of Titus has focused on how the Lord has saved us by His grace, causing us to look on non-Christians with compassion and giving us both the desire and the resources to perform good works. We left off last Monday with the thought that the doctrines of grace are profitable.

Today’s passage contrasts those profitable teachings with the unprofitable ideas of false teachers. To introduce these three verses, let’s read them within their immediate context.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~~Titus 3:4-11 (ESV)

Paul now instructs Titus to avoid foolish controversies, dissensions and quarrels about Jewish law. Remember that the Judaizers were going into the churches in Crete with the goal of compelling the believers to adopt Jewish law as part of their Christianity. In the process they stirred up controversies because their false teaching deviated from the Gospel that Paul and Titus taught.

Paul gave Timothy similar, more detailed, instruction in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, explicitly specifying that Timothy “charge certain persons” not to teach doctrine that differed from the teaching of the apostles. This parallel passage sheds light on Titus 3:9-11.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explain that the genealogies referred to here weren’t simply looking up family trees. Rather, they involved systems that ultimately led to Gnosticism. Regarding this particular verse, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary explains: “These Jews were turning the entire historical substance into mere myth. The genealogies were not treated primarily as historical documents but instead were subjected to a highly symbolic interpretive scheme. Names, dates and places supposedly contained hidden meanings which became the basis for esoteric doctrines.”

To Paul’s remark that such controversies are unprofitable and worthless, John MacArthur comments that “Proclaiming the truth, not arguing error, is the biblical way to evangelize.” Errors, such as those infiltrating the churches under Titus’ care, are best refuted by sound doctrine.

Moving to verse 10, we learn that the person who causes division is, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, one who chooses to follow his or her own way rather than than submitting to Biblical teaching. The Greek word means “to choose,” and it developed into the word “heretic.” The idea is that heretics choose their lies over God’s truth. In writing this command to avoid heretics, Paul definitely addresses the false teachers who disrupted the churches in Crete.

He issued a similar command in Romans 16:17, where he stated that divisive people oppose apostolic doctrine. Those who question things in a church that deviate from sound doctrine often get branded as being divisive, but Scripture makes it clear that true heretics divide themselves from God’s Word.

Paul tells Titus to give heretics a first and second warning (compare with Matthew 18:15-17). Barnes points out that these two warnings provide the offender with opportunity to explain his or her actions and to repent. Continued violation beyond that point demonstrates the person’s commitment to rebellion. Therefore, that person must be separated from the church.

Paul concludes in verse 11 with an explanation of why divisive people should be avoided. To put it bluntly, heretics who disregard warnings prove themselves to be warped. Vincent’s Word Studies defines the word here translated as warped to mean “turned inside out.” It communicates a sense of perversion. As a result, they live in a constant state of sin.

Furthermore, heretics condemn themselves by rejecting correction and sound doctrine. Whereas those whom God saves are justified by grace, false teachers condemn themselves by preaching salvation by works and/or by other deviations from Biblical teaching. The Lord Himself, in John 3:18, made it clear that failure to believe in Him puts a person under condemnation.

Obviously, Titus 3:9-11 should first and foremost be applied to pastors as instruction regarding church discipline. As women, of course, none of us will serve as pastors (at least, not without clearly violating Scripture). Yet we have a responsibility to avoid the false teachers that write books and appear on “Christian” television. Hopefully today’s  study shows the importance of such avoidance.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin