Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What if I sin after being saved?...am I lost?


Church leaders are often afraid to speak on topics such as grace and continual forgiveness do to a fear that those hearing the lesson may misunderstand grace as a license to sin. Such an idea is clearly against scripture, in fact Paul once wrote to the church in Rome “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid!” (Romans 6:1). We know we should not sin, but the reality is, that even after becoming a Christian we will sin.

What about when we do sin after we becoming a child of God, is there still hope? 
So often it is easy for a faithful child of God to become so saddled with guilt over sin in their life that they quite trying. This too, is not the attitude that one should have. Christians should abhor and avoid sin, but not give up trying when they do continue to sin.

In his letter to some troubled Christians, the apostle John writes:
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2)
This passage presents two very important teachings. 

#1 Grace and forgiveness should never be viewed as a license to sin. 
Yes, it is true we are forgiven by Christ’s sacrifice and not our own perfection. However, the forgiveness that we have received motivates us to try to live perfect. We will fall short time and time again, but the ultimate goal of every Christian according to John is to “not sin”.

#2 There is hope for us when we do sin
I have talked to several Christians who have lost the hope of salvation because of their continual struggle with sin. To that John would say, don’t worry, hang in there, help is available and His name is Jesus. It is true that we are unrighteous at times, but Jesus is always righteous and He is our advocate and our propitiation. Jesus makes it possible for us in our sinfulness to still be declared sinless and pure. John would later write to these same brethren that he wants them to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Conclusion: 
Christians should never approve of sin in their lives. God wants us to stay in the light by constantly turning away from sin. When we do sin, we can still feel confident in our salvation by placing our trust in Jesus as our Advocate and our propitiation.

CS- Scripture quotes from the NASB

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Is John 6 talking about the Lord’s Supper or Communion when Jesus says "eat my flesh and drink my blood"?

In John 6:56 Jesus makes the statement “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in Him”.

Many people look at this passage and see the terms “bread” and “drink” and assume that Jesus is making reference to the future institution of the Lord’s Supper. In fact, those of a Catholic belief use this passage to support the idea that the Eucharist actually becomes the literal body and blood of Christ. 

What does the Bible teach?

Answer:
John 6 is NOT about communion. When Jesus talks about “eating His flesh”, He is tying it back to the idea of Him being “the bread of life” (John 6:35).  Many in John 6 were asking Jesus to perform a physical sign such as raining down bread from heaven like the manna in the Old Testament or at least replicate the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:26,31). Jesus informs them that they should not be seeking physical bread which perishes, but a food that “endures to eternal life” (John 6:27).

When one believes in Jesus and abides in His Word, it is as if they are consuming Jesus. If you consume Jesus you will receive spiritual nourishment that results in everlasting life.  Jesus’ spiritual nourishment is everlasting, He states: 
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”  (John 6:35). If one abides in Jesus they will never lack spiritual nourishment. One abides in Jesus by hearing and learning His teachings. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).
Jesus makes it very clear that He is not talking about physical food at all (like the communion), but spiritual food that results in spiritual nourishment.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. “I am the bread of life. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:47-51).

The disciples were still confused by what Jesus was saying (possibly they were still thinking He was speaking of physical bread or even His physical body). Jesus explains to them, 
“...The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (John 6:63-64).
Many of Jesus’ followers did not believe, and thus, they did not accept this teaching and left Him (John 6:66). Peter on the other hand understood that He was to be nourished on the words of Jesus. He knew that learning from Jesus was the same as eating “the bread of life” (ie. Jesus). That is why He makes the statement “Lord to who shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Conclusion
In John 6, the phrases about eating the flesh of Jesus or "bread of life" and drinking His blood is not in reference to any physical food such as the elements of the communion. Instead, the teaching of this passage is one must be spiritually nourished on the words of Jesus in order to have eternal life.

by Cliff Sabroe (References from ESV Bible and NASU95 Bible)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is it ok to want a terrorist killed? How should a Christian view ISIS? Is war the answer? What about killing in “self-defense”?

Sadly, because of so many acts of terror taking place, many are asking questions they never had to ask before. Questions about war, justice and vengeance, are always difficult. The fact is, there is not an easy answer to all of these thoughts. This post, however, seeks to present some Biblical principles to help the believer navigate through these difficult times.

God hates murder!
The first principle we need to consider is that the Bible clearly condemns murder. In the 10 commandments it reads “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). God says that He hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). In the book of Revelation we are told that “murderers” will be cast into the “lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). When a person is murdered, whether by he hands of an Islamic Terrorist in the name of religion or a gang member doing a drive-by, sin has taken place, and God HATES it. 

What about killing in self-defense?
There are several facets to the original question that must be contemplated. What about killing in “self-defense”? There is not a verse that clearly condemns violence in self-defense or even in the protection of another. We need to remember there is a difference between defense, and vengeance! It is not our place to enact vengeance on another. Remember the teaching of (Romans 12:19) “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. 

When to use force?” (especially lethal force) against another, is a difficult question without an easy answer. Love needs to motivate all that we do (Matthew 22:39). One might be able to make a case that love for one’s neighbor may entail using lethal force against our neighbor’s murderous attacker. This same case may be made for collective military force against a group who seeks to do harm on the innocent. Choices like these are increasingly difficult. The early Christians were never told to use force against the Romans who were violently persecuting them, and although the literalness of Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” statement is up for debate, its principles need to be considered.

What about war?
In his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul discusses the authority that governments possess. 
 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for she is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV).
The idea that governments are allowed to “bear the sword”  is most likely in reference to capital punishment, however, war may be included in this teaching too. God allows governments to exist, enact laws and even lead soldiers into battle.

Christians should not want war to happen. We should desire “peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). I would encourage all to exercise caution and not be quick to make a statement like “we should bomb them!”. Instead we should desire that they “repent”.  
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 
Although, it may not be inherently wrong for one country to go to war with another, we should always “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). 

Can I be happy when a terrorist is shot or a murderer is put to death? What emotions should I have had when Osama Bin Laden was killed?
Controlling our emotions is difficult. It is even more difficult to determine what emotions are godly and which ones are not. One thought we need to keep in mind is that although God desires all to be saved, He is also a God of Justice. 

God created us with a desire for justice (even justice in this life). It would be permissible for us to find satisfaction when an evil person is punished. When you read through the Psalms you find several instances where God’s people yearned for, and prayed for justice to be served (Psalm 109). In (Revelation 6:9-11) the souls under the alter are crying out to God for justice. 
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)
It is not our duty to enact vengeance or to force the hand of justice, however, when the wicked are punished for their deeds, it is ok to find satisfaction in that justice has been served. This would even include feeling a sense of satisfaction in the death of another (such as Osama Bin Laden).

We should desire salvation more than punishment.
Although we might thirst for and find satisfaction in the punishment of the wicked, we should have a greater desire that all repent, and follow Christ. God created all people in his image. This would include the most vile terrorist. When a person dies before they repent, we should be saddened by the fact that a person born in the image of God, chose a life of sin, that cost them their eternal soul. We can be glad that justice is served when one is punished in this life, and yet, at the same time be saddened a person is lost. 


By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from ESV and NASB. Image curtesy of NBCnews.com 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Is it necessary for one to have the Holy Spirit in order to be saved?

As with many questions about religious topics, one can assume there are differing opinions. We, however are not concerned with what is the most popular opinion, but instead, what does the Bible say?  Here is what the Bible teaches.

The Spirit is Necessary for one to Have Eternal Life
  • However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised you from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you". (Romans 8:9-11)
The Spirit is God's Pledge That He will Save Us
  • In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph. 1:13-14).
  • For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 2:4-5).
The Spirit is Evidence of God's Love
  • “...and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
The Spirit in the Christian is Motivation to Live Holy
  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body”. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Spirit is Necessary For One's Sanctification 
  • “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
It is clear throughout the Bible that one must have the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. One must not confuse the work of the Holy Spirit in today's Christian with His miraculous enabling of the Apostles. Although He does not empower the Christian today as He did the Apostles (such as guiding them into all truth or the ability to speak in different languages/tongues or other revelatory or confirmatory gifts), He is still very much real and at work (especially through His sword; The Word of God (Eph. 6:17).

Please see my other post here, on how one receives the Spirit today.

All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible 1995 Update - Lockman Foundation. Emphasis Mine - Cliff Sabroe Image gathered from Relevant Magazine. 

Does God speak to us through the examples found in the Bible?

The Bible is not just a book of commands. It also contains narrative, letters, poetry and more. Most Christians desire to follow God’s word, but at times get confused on what they are supposed to do. One of the ways that God guides us in Scripture is through the examples Apostles, Jesus and even the early Church. Which examples are to be emulated and which ones are merely incidental actions is a discussion for another time, but this post seeks to prove that God does not merely teach by command, but also by example. 

First and foremost, one must go to the text and observe if there are any occasions where God’s people were “commanded” to follow an example. Immediately one is reminded of the several instances in which God’s people were commanded to follow the example of Christ.  
  • “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
  • “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
  • “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,b being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).
The example Christ left throughout His life presents actions and activities worthy our own personal replication.

Even more prevalent then then the passages that command the reader to follow the example of Christ, are those provided which command the follower of God to emulate the example left by the holy apostles.
  • “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
  • “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The examples provided in Scripture serve various purposes. At times examples will teach principles which encourage greater faithfulness. “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6) he continues “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Biblical examples can provide comfort to the suffering, they can provide encouragement and give us a great pattern for believers to follow today.

Throughout the Bible there are several instances of approved examples being followed. What is also recorded for the exegete are the consequences of not following the example left, or following a bad example. Romans 15:1-6 declares:
  • We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10 concerning the sins committed by Israelites in the wilderness that “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). The Israelites in the wilderness engaged in idolatry, immorality and grumbling all of which served as an example to the Corinthians of what not to do.

There are many consequences when people do not follow the examples provided for them by God. One of the clearest examples of this thought is found in Romans chapter 1. In this section of Scripture the apostle Paul declares that the Gentile pagans were without excuse in their disobedience to God. It is shown that God has left them an example of His existence through His creation and they are without any excuse. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

If God expected the pagan worshipers to draw a certain conclusion from the example He left regarding His nature through the creation, one might also come to the assumption that other examples left for us by God would be for our learning. The consequence of not obeying the example in this case was a depraved mind. One might also assume that if Christ and the apostles left us examples to follow, if one chooses to not follow those examples, the consequences will be just as dire.

A deeper study on the topic of "Bible Examples" can be found here

By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What does the word “Sabaoth” mean?

You may have read this word before in your Bible and just assumed that it was the word “Sabbath” spelled differently, but that is not the case. This word is found twice in the New Testament in Romans 9:29 and James 5:4.
  • And just as Isaiah foretold, "UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT TO US A POSTERITY, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WOULD HAVE RESEMBLED GOMORRAH.” (Romans 9:29 NASB)
  • Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. (James 5:4 NASB)
The word “Sabaoth” is a transliteration of a Greek word which was a transliteration of a Hebrew word. The word is often translated as “hosts” or “armies”. This word emphasizes the power of God. God has the power to provide for his followers and to punish the wicked. This is the case in James 5:4, God hears the cries of the mistreated and thus, He is angry. James’ point is, “you do not want to make the Lord of “Hosts” (armies and angels) mad!

The word “sabaoth” does not mean “Sabbath”,  but instead it is a word that represents the great power of Almighty God.

By Cliff Sabroe (Quotes from NASB, Image from Reddit)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why are there so many different Bible translations?

Often times an individual will decide they need a new Bible. Maybe the one they have had since childhood has worn out or they just are ready for a change. A person decides to go to their local bookstore to buy a new Bible and they are quickly inundated with numerous different translations to choose from. King James Version, New King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard version etc. The shopper wonders to him/herself, “why are their so many different English Bibles?” A person may assume that all English Bibles are the same, but they learn quickly that this is not the case. This post will provide a couple of reasons why this is so.

Reason #1 - The Constantly Changing English Language. 

Below is a quote from the King James Bible (Hebrews 1:2) from the year 1611. 
“Hath in these last dayes spoken vnto vs by his Sonne, whom he hath appointed heire of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”
This not way English sounds today, the language has changed over time. As language continually changes, there will always be a need for newer translations. Words will often change meaning. Publishers are aware of this, so new translations are always being formed. The Bible has not changed, but the language it has been translated into has. 

Reason #2 - Philosophy of Translation

Different translations are designed to meet different goals. Most would say that they desire a literal word for word translation. The sentence structure in Greek or Hebrew, however, is different than English. Because of this difference, translators have to decide how “literal” they want to translate a passage.

Another consideration when forming a Bible translation, is the level of readability. At times, when striving for accuracy, readability will suffer. Some translations are written at level for children and others are written for the highly educated. 

Translations will differ depending on whether or not they are a “paraphrase”. A paraphrase is more or less a summary of a passage into English rather than a true translation. Each type of translation has its place, and thus there are many different English Bibles.

Which Bible Should I use?  (Taken from a previous post)

A quick google search for a "Bible Version Chart" will give one a basic understanding of the different versions and their philosophy of translation (some philosophies of translation are better than others for study).

When seeking out an English translation for personal study, I recommend a version that is accurate (preferably a word for word translation) and readable (preferably in modern English).

You have  3 different types of translations (In order from most accurate to least). 
  • 1. Word for Word
  • 2. Thought for Thought 
  • 3. Paraphrase. 

I only recommend "Word for Word" translations. "Thought for thought" and "paraphrased" Bibles are great for comparisons, but not for deep study of the Word. The most popular Bible in America is The New International Version. The NIV claims to strive for "a balance between word for word and thought for thought". Although a very popular translation, one would be better served using a "Word for Word" translation as their primary study Bible and save the others for casual or personal devotional type reading.

The most common "Word for Word" translations in use today are the King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Version (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). One would not be doing themselves a disservice in choosing any of these translations. 

Of the "Word for Word" translations available, the three I recommend (in this order) are: 
  • 1. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) (1995 Update). 
  • 2. The English Standard Version (ESV).
  • 3.The New King James Version (NKJV).
    • (These 3 versions successfully balance accuracy with readability).

Due to its older English, I do not usually recommend the King James Version to new Bible students and I have not spent enough time in the Holman Christian Standard Bible to offer a recommendation as of yet.

My primary study and preaching Bible is the New American Standard Bible, which I will often cross reference with the English Standard Version. - These versions are the ones I will usually give to a new Christian or recommend for a person to purchase (The New King James in a very close 3rd).
Side Note: I recommend that you also familiarize yourself with the many free electronic tools available today. You can download many great Bible apps for your smartphone (this way you can study wherever you go). I have an ESV app on my iPhone by Crossway publishers that is free and very easy to use. There are many other apps that contain multiple versions.  When on my computer I will often use www.bible.cc or blueletterbible.org. These sites are free and contain all of the common English versions plus dictionaries and more.

Remember the best Bible is the one you read! Spend time in the Word of God... it will change your life. 

By Cliff Sabroe