Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christian Character Developement Part 1

So, having blogged about how it is possible for one who has answered the call to heaven to lose out in the last topic we looked at the logical question becomes how do we avoid such an end?  Since God loves us and wants us to succeed and gain the crown offered (James. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:6-7; Rev. 2:10; 20:4-6) he leaves us in no doubt as to how to be successful.  It is through character development.

Peter wrote to the Christian Church in his day on the subject and gave them a simple plan for Character development and success.  His words are found in 2 Peter 1:4-8:

Through these he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, seeing that you have escaped the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, you must make every effort to supplement your faith with moral character, your moral character with knowledge, your knowledge with self-control, your self-control with endurance, your endurance with godliness, your godliness with brotherly kindness, and your brotherly kindness with love. For if you possess these qualities, and if they continue to increase among you, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in attaining a full knowledge of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah. (ASV)

Let’s have a look at each of the character traits Peter mentions:

Faith:  Faith is the first virtue mentioned.  Fortunately for us we have a definition of faith in the bible itself.  That definition is found at Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.”  Biblical faith isn’t really blind.  It has a foundation on which it is build.  That foundation is two-fold, creation and God’s word.  More and more as technology makes it possible for scientists to peer into creation the more it is being discovered that the universe isn’t as haphazard as it as first seemed.  There is evidence of order and design.  Thus we find scientists from at least two disciplines, astronomy and microbiology embracing the theory of intelligent design and risking damage to their careers in the process.  Such evidence of design forms a foundation for belief in a creator, one who has some care for his creation given all the things which have to be just right for us to have this home we call earth in the first place.

The second layer for the foundation for faith is God’s word.  Since the creator went to all the trouble it took to make this earth and make it just right for our habitation it only makes sense that he would also care enough to communicate with the intelligent part of his creation.  The Christian Bible, which is made up of the Jewish Torah in its entirety and the Christian writings, purports to be that message.  When compared to all other such works it is by far superior.  Its accounts match with what both ancient historical sources recount and archeological discoveries.  More and more the latter are revealing the Bible to be a book with a sound footing in the realities of the time.  The candor of its writers also reveals it to be a book which we can place our confidence in.  Thus it completes the foundation for Christian faith.

In the rest of the eleventh chapter Paul emphasizes for us the difference between belief and faith, though the same Greek work is used for both.  Faith is active.  It is belief applied.  Time and time again Paul drives the point home with numerous examples making the entire chapter one every Christian should read regularly.  So the footstep follower of the Master doesn’t just sit on his or her call, she or she acts on it, first through character development.  We’ll see why later on.

Moral Character:  The word used here is aretē (ἀρέτη G703).  As I gleaned my way through the lexicons I have the meaning which really stuck out was virtue in every sense of the word.  The word manliness was also attached to it in one lexicon showing that this is virtue built on courage and moral fiber.  Thus moral character is the quality of doing what is right, even when everybody around one doesn’t.  The Christian doesn’t seek the easy way out or to conform to the notions of the day as to morality.  The genuine Child of God sticks to his moral requirements no matter the pressures brought on him or her to compromise.  So courage is an essential part of Christian virtue, especially when exercising faith in God and his precious promises.  It is easy to see why Peter would say to add to one’s faith virtue.

We’ll see you again dear friends and readers for our next post in the series.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Tragedy In Denver

A few things about yesterday's tragedy:

There is no way any gun legislation either way would've done a bit of good.  Experience has shown that if a crazy like that wants to get an automatic weapon and blow away a bunch of folks he'll get it.  Consider the mess they had in France some months back with the Muslim fanatic killing Jews and soldiers with real military weaponry in a country where possession of said weaponry is illegal.  From what we've been told so far about this fellow's apartment it sounds like he was also in possession of illegal explosives, whether they were homemade or not, so all those laws did not work.

On the other hand had those with valid CCW permits been allowed in the theater it still wouldn't have made any real difference in the end unless one had an armor piercing load, which is illegal to all but military and police personnel.  Mr. Holmes went in suited up in full tactical gear and armor, so the loads most people who carry would've been pretty much useless.

I don't often watch TV these days.  But last night my wife and I were and she switched the TV to the O'Reilly factor when it came on unasked.  I've watched him many times in the past and there are times I both agree and disagree with him.  But last night when he pointed out that there was no way any political policy would've made a difference he was dead on, pardon the pun.

Yesterday we had a family tragedy when an uncle died.  But the nation had a tragedy when somebody mentally ill equipped to handle the pressure of a PhD. program went into melt-down and decided to vent his anger by taking as many lives as he could.  That it was a theater packed with children and that they figure prominently among the victims makes the tragedy doubly hard for all.  Unfortunately as man continues his fall such tragedies have become like the weather, something which one hopes they won't be struck with but which all know can happen anywhere or at anytime.

Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones in Colorado yesterday.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Can one who has tasted of salvation be lost?

I am going to lay out two points for this discussion.  One, I’m going to assume that by “salvation” we are talking about heavenly salvation.  Two, only God really knows who would fall in that category for sure because he is the only judge of it.  That being stated:

While Jesus was on the earth he made a comment which is appropriate to the subject when his miracles were attributed to Beelzebub:

“So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the one to come."
(Mat 12:31-32; ISV)

So it is possible to fall away and commit acts for which there is no forgiveness.  Becoming and enemy of the Way and speaking against it can bring one perilously close to what Jesus was talking about since the True Church has God’s Holy Spirit and the works they perform are through its influence.  We find confirmation of that thought in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews where he states:

“For if we choose to go on sinning after we have learned the full truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but only a terrifying prospect of judgment and a raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who violates the Law of Moses dies without mercy ‘on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ How much more severe a punishment do you think that person deserves who tramples on God's Son, treats as common the blood of the covenant by which it was sanctified, and insults the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will pay them back,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”
(Heb 10:26-31; ISV)

Paul states clearly that once one has “learned the full truth” and presumably joined the true church in their calling then chooses to sin, then there is no sacrifice left for them and such sin is no longer covered.  Since he included the thought of “tramples on God’s Son, treats as common the blood of the covenant by which it was sanctified,” it would seem that such sin would not only be deliberate but of a similar nature as that which Jesus warned against.  Basically, one can’t accidentally fall into this sin; they have to go out of their way to enter that category.

To sum it up, the belief of some that once one is “saved” they cannot be lost doesn’t really hold up.  Jesus himself warned that there was a sin which could earn one eternal unforgiveness, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  Paul enlarged upon the idea and his words make it clear he wrote about those who were “saved,” that is part of the true Church called to heaven.  Paul makes it clear in no uncertain terms that those who willfully fall away and sin will fall into God’s hand of judgment and be lost.