Good morning Bob. I often find myself appreciating a parallel between western government and religion. It is the influence of money on people. Career positions that eclipse the position of service, and foster the illusion of need for them. I would be greatly encouraged to see less pensions,401s and guarantees and more 'give it all away and follow me' in these created administrative positions. I see addicts and enabling of bad behavior. Pharisees. No small wonder so much is said about money in scripture. I have stepped away from such Sunday gatherings for now, and ponder the limitations put willingly forth as good teaching. Hard at times to not judge, but of good council to consider of these I am the worst. G-D is good.
Good to hear from you.
If it is any consolation, this is a decision I hear of more and more on the part of those who are determined to put the Word first on the one hand and to avoid false teaching and apostasy on the other. This may be salutary too, and not just for present day spiritual health and advance: in the soon-to-come Tribulation antichrist will co-opt all Christian denominations, and those who are too late in this process of putting distance between themselves and all that is abominable to God will be all the more likely to be captured by his false religion (one third of Christians are prophesied to apostatize at that time).
So hang in there my friend! Our Lord is faithful and will supply all of our needs if we but commit ourselves to faithfully following Him.
Hey Dr. Luginbill,
I don't know if you're back from your trip yet. I know you probably have a lot of emails piled up.
Could you talk with the pastor of the church I go to? Like over, email? I wouldn't ask if I didn't think it would be a really good idea. You know how you talk about only sharing biblical truths with people who are receptive to it? I think this pastor is. I don't want to make this a long email, so just know that I think really highly of him. He's an independent fundamental Baptist and has been for like 30 years. He just planted another church, which is the one I currently attend. We don't even have 30 people. If he's going to change some of the doctrine of the church, it needs to be now before the church is well established.
I can get his email address for you. I just wanted to ask you first. I know that you said you don't like to usurp another pastor's authority. He won't mind though. I truly think he wants to know what the Bible actually says about everything. Of course, I'm nowhere near qualified to teach anyone doctrine. So could you? I know that he could just go to your website and read the Bible studies. I think it's just different talking directly to someone. You get a sense of their character. If you say yes, I will get you his email or tell him to email you.
As to your request, I can't see my way clear to approaching another pastor to teach him or "straighten him out", but I would certainly be willing to communicate with him directly in case he has any doctrinal questions or issues he wants to discuss with me.
Forgive me if I am somewhat skeptical about it. Most Christians who have been so for a long time are usually set in their ways about what they believe and why. The number actively pursuing the truth or interested in doing so is very low, and I think the tendency among the "professional clergy" is doubly so one way or the other. And, yes, you are right that I am reluctant to infringe on any pastor's authority. I am happy to stand up for what I believe to be true, and also to help anyone who is wrestling with finding the truth on any biblical issue, pastors included (provided they are asking me for that help). But I would hope that any pastor who is proclaiming the Word of God and actually planting churches would be doing so out of faith. We can all stand improvement when it comes to the learning about the Word, but as my dad (who was a Presbyterian minister) used to say, you won't get far preaching your doubts. If you like this person and this church, it probably has to do with a positive message proclaimed in faith. If, on the other hand, that is lacking, I'm not sure what I could say or do to change it.
You are certainly free to share this email with your pastor, and, as I say, I would be happy to correspond with him about any biblical subject, should he wish that. In practical terms, however, Christians "vote with their feet" in respect of what doctrines, biblical approaches and fellowships they desire and/or are willing to put up with. As I generally tell people, if you have found a person who teaches the Word of God in a substantive and orthodox way, and if you feel that this is the person/place God intends for you to grow in Christ and learn to walk closer with Him, then by all means be supportive and "get with the program". If, on the other hand, you know in your heart that the person/place is a mistake, better to depart quietly without any fuss, and let the Lord lead you to the right person and place where you can grow as you should, learn how to draw closer to Jesus, and eventually help others do the same through the ministry He assigns you.
Apologies for the insufficiency of this answer, but it is given in the love of Christ.
You remain in my prayers day by day.
I am serving the Blessed Lord in a Fundamentalist& Independent New Testament Local Church, and was wondering; what was your position on the Local Church Doctrine? There are times when I question the membership doctrine.
Thanks for your help
Good to make your acquaintance.
In my view scripture does not give any justification for denominations; they are not only entirely man-made but they are also a bad idea (I think anyone with even a smattering of Church History can see that this is certainly the case, e.g.).
As to membership, I also see no justification in the Bible for anything beyond informal, voluntary association when it comes to individual churches. However, I certainly do understand why many have seen this as a necessary step. For example, in order to "call a pastor", there has traditionally been a commitment to provide support; there has traditionally been a practice of providing a dedicated building (i.e., a church) wherein to conduct services et al. These basic features of the traditional local church in the west have necessitated financial measures which make membership difficult to avoid: a full-time pastor needs to be paid, so that a community who formally self-identify as those who have taken on that responsibility has usually been seen as going hand in hand with that commitment; and a building with its contents will have to be owned (and maintained) by someone or some entity in order to manage things in a responsible way.
As I have often remarked when asked questions on these issues, beyond giving the basic standards for the appointment of elders and deacons to direct things, to my mind the New Testament goes out of its way not to prescribe how these matters should be handled, though the apostles could easily have done so, nor to proscribe many things which might have easily been prohibited. So I cannot say dogmatically that formal membership is a bad thing in and of itself Ė although in my view the notion that membership is necessary is wrong, putting pressure on people to join is even worse, and giving the impression that salvation is in anyway connected to membership is down-right satanic; please see the links:
Is Church Membership an Issue in Salvation?
Salvation and Church Affiliation
The False Doctrine of "Institutional Security"
Aspects of the False Doctrine of Institutional Security
I suppose when it comes to this issue it is fair to ask whether or not eschewing a dedicated building and the consequent accretion of church property, as well as forgoing a full-time entirely church-supported pastor would not be a preferable course? Even if we allow that the traditional western "church model" may not be entirely wrong, putting it aside has definite advantages. Instead of worshiping a building and becoming overly concerned about matters of property, membership and governance, believers would then be free to focus upon what assembly is all about from God's point of view, namely, learning and believing and being mutually encouraged and guided by the teaching of God's Word.
I do understand that, theoretically, a prepared pastor/teacher should be able to do a better job if fully supporting as opposed to being a "tent-maker" on the side. On the other hand, there is a church on every corner in this country and the vast majority of the clergy who take the pulpit in them every week, though fully supported in this "ideal" way, yet for all that support are not teaching the Bible and its truths in the orthodox, substantive way that would be necessary for their congregations to grow and progress spiritually, and reach the level of maturity necessary to carry out the ministries to which they have been called according to their several gifts. And I rather suspect that the formalization that has befallen western Christendom has much to do with that spiritual torpor and the seeming inability to envision the Christian life outside of the confines of these moribund and mortifying traditional restraints. Still and all, as I also am wont to say, in my opinion this is at least as much of a "demand problem" as it is a "supply problem" on the part of those who attend these churches Ė not being interested in the truth. We live in the era of Laodicea, after all (please see the link), so while sad it is not entirely surprising that there is so little interest in learning and living God's Word (or that this ministry is on the internet as a result).
I certainly do commend your search for the truth, my friend! I know that the Lord always opens for those who truly knock.
Feel free to write me back about any of this.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Dr. Bob,
Thank you for keeping up the great web site for learning. Whenever I have a question, I go to your web site and see that you have already answered someone else asking the same thing. Many is the time that I read what others are posting and find such relief in your responses.
I have a question that I have not seen asked by others; it is, can a church turn you down for membership for physical reasons? We attended a Presbyterian church for several months and we signed the little book to join, but nothing came of it. I do know that some in the church knew of about the illness. Iím sure the church worried about a person taking communion with an illness, but no one even called to tell us one way or the other. We just worship in our home now and learn from your web site.
In Christ our King and Him only do I serve,
Good to hear from you. As to your question, this is a new one to me (although I wouldn't be surprised to find out that people are "black-balled" from membership for all manner of selfish and prejudicial reasons in all manner of churches). Also, to be honest, I don't find either denominations or the practice of church membership to be biblical in the first place. Making a church an exclusive social club in this respect you mention is to me extremely galling. There may be legal reasons for official membership, but we would all be better off without such things. Traditional church trappings like this have done so much more harm than good in the history of Christianity (here are a few links which will take you others on this: "Membership and Salvation?", "Church Polity I", "Church Polity II").
I am extremely happy to have you visit Ichthys or write me any time at all. No membership necessary.
Thanks also for your good words.
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior Ė He is always faithful.
Hey Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your response. Of course, you're right as always. I know that I have to be more persistent in my Bible study. I have a question, though. How do you meditate on bible verses? I'm following somewhat of a reading plan through the Bible. You know the one provided in the NIV Bible? Well, I've started using that guideline until I can establish a routine of reading the Bible. I read the Bible verses, but I feel like I should be getting something more out of it. I know we aren't supposed to read the Bible just to get through it. We should absorb the information. I was just wondering how to best go about getting the meaning out of the Bible. Mostly, I've just been rereading the verses. I still don't seem to get much out of it, though.
Also, if Revelation 22:3 isn't supposed to say "curse" as you mention, then what is it supposed to say? I wasn't able to find the explanation on your website. I ask because, in the introduction of the NIV Bible it talks about the curse on the earth in the context of the Bible story. It is a helpful overview. However, I know if some of the information is wrong it can lead to a completely different interpretation.
I have one last question. It's about the church I'm attending. I know it's hard to judge a church without attending in person. I just want your opinion on the subject. I believe I've told you before that it's very small, which I like. My question is, what do you think of me attending a church that I disagree doctrinally with? Do you think it has more negative than positives? The thing is, I doubt I can find a better church in the area. The pastor is willing to consider opposing viewpoints. The topic doesn't really come up anymore though. Remember how I decided I would no longer talk doctrine with people? Well, I've been holding to it. I figure there's no point to it really. I know what I believe and I'm not going to change my mind. While the pastor is considerably tolerant, I highly doubt he'd change his views. I wouldn't expect him to either. If he did, he'd have no church. The majority of the member are fresh out of, or still in a Baptist Bible college. The same one the pastor attended as a matter of fact. The church is very closely affiliated with it. I even attended a special service the school was having (a girl at my church invited me). The point is, this isn't like one of those churches where the people don't really know what they believe. Everyone knows where they stand doctrinally. I'm the only one with different views. Which is not to say that I feel alienated. I feel very welcome. Everyone pretty much considers me a member, rather than a visitor. I only have a few contentions with the church. They do believe all of the traditionally Baptist stuff. Also, the pastor thinks other Bible versions besides the KJV make light of the blood of Christ. I just want to reiterate though, that the pastor is a sensible man. He didn't see anything wrong with my using different Bible versions. I do make a point to use my KJV at the services though in the interest of compatibility. It's no bother to me to use that version. I grew up reading it, so I have relatively little trouble with it. I want to ask your opinion on another practice though. You may disagree or you may not. It's sort of a grey area. The pastor will routinely call on members of the church to pray. Usually, it's to close us in prayer. There are other times where he asks members to pray though. I was speaking with another girl who attends the church. I told her how I was nervous that the pastor might call on me to pray. She just smiled and said the pastor doesn't ever call on women to pray. I didn't want to pray anyway, but now that I know I can't... Also, the church uses Wednesdays as a type of prayer meeting. The men and women usually pray separately, meaning in different rooms. We have prayed together once or twice, though. The pastor did tell the women that we could pray if we wanted. I don't understand though. What's the difference between the pastor calling on you to pray, and praying during a prayer meeting?
You are very welcome Ė and I'm glade you found the response helpful.
As to Bible reading, whenever we are reading something with which we are not intimately familiar (like a new version of the Bible, for example), it takes a while to build a "frame of reference" for all the pieces to fit in easily and smoothly. The solution to this issue is repetition, patience, and also trying to approach the task with joy (i.e., not as something "you have to do" but as something "you really want to do"). Critically also, the more you grow in the truth of the Word as it is taught from a good Bible teaching ministry, the more you will find that the scripture you read backs up what you learn (assuming it is true Ė from an orthodox ministry), and the more you will understand and have insight into the things you read in scripture.
As to Revelation 22:3, the correct reading is "division", not "curse" (you can find this discussed at the link at the end of the following section in CT 6: "The River of the Water Life and the Tree of Life"). The Genesis chapter three curse on the ground is removed with our Lord's return to earth at the second advent, and that is part of what will make the Millennium so marvelous. There is no need to make the point that there is no "curse" in the New Heavens and New Earth because they have been recreated in absolute perfection. The point made is that in contrast to the things that divide us now, human beings from angels, Jews from gentiles, the living from the departed, our sin separating us from direct interaction with God, etc., we will then all enjoy sweet fellowship together on that wonderful day of days.
As to the "what church?" question, this is one I have always been rather reluctant to answer in the past but have become more bold about with the passage of time seeing as how the time is growing so short. All Christians naturally desire good Christian fellowship, and of course we would all prefer to have good Bible teaching face to face as opposed to through writing or tapes or over the internet. However, is face to face sermonizing and questionable fellowship worth the compromise if the alternative is problematic for whatever reason? That is a question every Christian has to answer for him/herself. It is decidedly "not good" for us to be alone in the world as believers, but it is also "not good" to continually expose ourselves to false and/or insipid "teaching" and to the fellowship of those who are more likely to drag us down spiritually than to lead us forward. When the two are combined, that is, a poor example from the pulpit and an immature or spiritually negative congregation, in my opinion no music program, no matter how beautiful, and no social activities, no matter how much fun, can possibly compensate for the arresting or even degradation of our own spiritual momentum that is likely to result. Odd or outlandish practices (such as the ones you report) are merely ways one can confirm that the decision to attach oneself to such a place may not be for the best. The fact that it is difficult if not impossible to find a brick and mortar church where the Bible is taught substantively and correctly and where those who attend have as their number one objective spiritual growth through learning and believing and sharing the truth does not change the calculus. This ministry exists Ė as others do as well (please check out Pastor-Teacher Omo's Bible Academy at the link) Ė to try and help bridge that gap. So Ichthys is "my church" (Matt.18:19), and you are certainly welcome here any time. There are a number of postings at the site which treat this issue (apologies if I've linked any of them before); here's a sample:
Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.
Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.
Keeping running the good race!
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
I can't read Matthew and continue to go to [our local mega-church]. Nuf said. But I feel an overwhelming responsibility to have my family in a "Church" Do you have any suggestions?
This is one of the most common questions I get and there is no good answer. Ideally, as many churches as there are in this country, it would be an easy matter to find one that fits the bill. The problem is that almost universally organized Christianity has gone astray on what church "is" and what it should do. Christians should assemble themselves together for mutual encouragement and edification (Heb.10:24-25). That means going somewhere where the Bible is taught in an orthodox and substantive way as the main reason for getting together, and where the Christians who attend are dedicated to the priority of spiritual growth through learning and believing and applying the truth, progressing in their walk with Jesus through applying that truth to their lives, and helping others do the same through taking advantages of the ministry opportunities our Lord offers. In other words, church is not somewhere to go to be social and to be entertained with only an occasional nod to the Bible and with many doctrinal errors popping out everywhere and with most of the people met not really being interested in the truth and spiritual growth. Under such conditions (the norm in American churches today whether "mega" or ritualistically traditional), it is often the case that "your meetings do more harm than good" (1Cor.11:17).
The time is short. The Tribulation is just over the horizon. Under such circumstances, I cannot in good conscience advise people to ally themselves to lukewarm organizations for any reason (see the link: The Tribulational False Religion). As far as I am concerned, Ichthys is my church, and all are welcome. If anyone does find a good "brick and mortar" church where the right things are being done for the right reasons, I am certainly happy to pass on that news and rejoice in it. But that is a very rare thing in our age of Laodicea (and that explains why this ministry is on the internet and not in-between four walls).
Best wishes for your godly efforts to guide and provide for your family in all things spiritual.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
[Ex-Roman Catholic struggling with "where to attend" Ė details omitted by request]
. . . so the point where you are at now is actually a good one, spiritually considered, and I certainly commend your search for the proper way forward. Traditionally, this has meant getting involved in a local church. However, we live in the era of Laodicea (see the link), and that means that the odds of finding a place where the Word of God is being taught in a substantive and orthodox way as the primary, secondary and tertiary purpose of assembly is very remote. This is the most common complaint I receive from believers around the world. My response is always to say that there is nothing wrong with searching, but that finding a place where the Word of God is actually being taught nowadays is truly a "pearl of great price". So is not for no reason that this ministry is on the internet: the dearth of good Bible teaching today is a two-sided coin. Most of the cohort of dedicated pastor/teacher candidates I communed with in seminary never found a traditional church Ė because their skills and aptitudes, along with the direction they were wishing to take their prospective congregations, were not only generally not desired but actually viewed dismissively. I had the same experience myself. The lack of good Bible-teaching churches is to a large degree a function of the lack on the part of most of the lukewarm members of the church of Laodicea today of any desire for such teaching (most are more interested in the social aspects of church as well as the entertainment aspects which are becoming predominant).
At the risk, therefore, of encouraging you in a direction that for other reasons might not be the best (given your particular personal circumstances), I do want to let you know that I consider Ichthys "my church", and that you are more than welcome here any time. These materials are written with a view towards providing the necessary spiritual food required to grow to maturity, progress in the Christian walk with Jesus, and eventually come into the particular ministry our Lord has for you. There are plenty of "brick and mortar" fellowships out there that would certainly welcome you with open arms; but spiritual growth comes from hearing the truth, learning and believing it, then applying it to one's life in the crucible of this world; it doesn't come from fellowship which is disinterested in this the most important function of the Church of Jesus Christ.
And let us give careful attention to one another['s ministries] as motivation for [our own] love and good works, not abandoning your mutual assembling as some have made it their practice to do [and which makes this impossible], but rather encouraging each other [to persevere in this work of the Lord], and doing so to an ever greater degree to the extent that you see the day [of the Lord] drawing [ever] closer.
The time is short; the Tribulation is drawing ever nearer. The purpose of assembly is the mutual encouragement that comes from a mutual acceptance of the truth of the teaching of the Word (e.g., Paul defines this encouragement as coming through teaching the Word: 1Tim.4:2; 4:13; Tit.1:9); this in turn is what stimulates the feed-back cycle of growth so necessary for the Body of Christ:
(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
You are most welcome here in your search for that growth. Please feel free to write me back any time.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I have recently been reading your teachings on your site. Although I haven't read very many articles, I have enjoyed what I've read very much. Your teachings are so full of rich content that it takes me awhile to read and soak it all in.
I was saved as a teen through the First Assembly of God church. I went through their teen Sunday School type service. The church went through new leadership and moved to another building and I stopped going. I had tried several churches through my teen and twenty years but never found one where I thought I was being fed. I ended up watching a teacher on TV who taught the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible and I would listen to folks on the radio like J. Vernon McGee and, of course, read my Bible. I prayed and continued to have faith in and rely on God and I saw Him working in my life through changes and fruit. The last church I went to was cold and I just pretty much gave up on ever finding a good church.
Two months ago I felt the Spirit leading me to learn more about the post-trib rapture. Revelation has always been a fascinating study for me and, of course, I was taught the pre-trib rapture was the only way. In my search on the Internet I came across a website that talked about the post-trib rapture but it said that only the "super Christians, the TRUE believers" would be the only ones to make it through. The rest of us "so-called Christians" would fall away and be lost forever. Needless to say, I was scared to death! I researched what a "super Christian or True believer was" and his teaching said it was a disciple of Christ. To be a disciple I had to love Jesus with all my heart, mind, soul, strength. I had to take up my cross. I had to sell all my stuff. If I did that then I was truly saved. I found another site that talked about being a true disciple and it gave me strict instructions on 1 John. If I wasn't doing all the things John had said and I mean REALLY doing them (his quote), I wasn't saved. Now, I believe the Bible is true and I read these scriptures for myself and I just pretty much had a total collapse. I loved the Lord and tried to make Him first, but I had failed. I thought I was taking up my cross and denying myself daily, but this wasn't good enough. And, I still had material possessions, so that disqualified me. No disciple=no salvation. I have seen progress over the years in the 1 John test, but I still am not a "super Christian" in those areas. Again, not up to snuff=no salvation. I was broken. Then I did some more research and found that I had not been truly saved because I didn't make Jesus Lord of my when I got saved. I just took the teacher's word that if I believed that God sent Jesus to die for us, that He lived a sinless life, that we needed a Savior to take our place and forgive our sins, turn to Jesus and accept His gift and I would be saved. I thought making Him Lord was a process. I was saved by my faith in Him and, by His grace, He would work out the sins and the life and make me into His likeness. Then I found out that I *might* have been saved back in my teens but then again I probably wasn't because I didn't get baptized until years later (they didn't want to baptize teens in the church because they wanted to make sure we understood salvation, etc). I went to a prophecy seminar at the local 7th Day Adventist church and they were offering baptism afterwards. I had not been baptized and wanted to be because Jesus said to. I didn't join their church and didn't want to. I felt that the baptism was a sign to God and others that I accepted His Son and not to join a church. I was told that my sins were not forgiven until I was baptized and since it had been years since my "initial saving" that the baptism or salvation didn't count. And it also didn't count because the 7th Day Adventist Church is a cult. WOW! So much to take in.
I felt that everything I had ever believed was a lie. I was on my face repenting and asking forgiveness for everything I had done, said, not going to church, EVERYTHING. I asked Him to be Lord of my life in every area. I had always prayed and talked to Him everyday and asked forgiveness for my sins. I always turned to Him for help and guidance. But now I wanted to give Him everything that I hadn't already--or according to what I read--never did. I am so ashamed. I hurt so bad. I have failed my Savior. I felt better afterwards and asked Him for salvation again since it sounded like I hadn't been saved in the first place. I think of all the wasted years I have spent and how much further I should be. I believe that since asking Him to be my Lord and Savior and repenting that I am now saved. I just can't seem to move forward. I feel like I have such a heavy burden now. I want to do everything right for Him but I'm failing so much. I'm in the Bible more, I've seen some changes in these past two months. I just feel like such a failure and I am having a hard time moving forward. I feel so much guilt. I know we shouldn't go by feelings. I feel the security I had is gone. I can't trust anyone, I don't believe any teaching for fear of being taught something wrong and being sucked into false doctrine. I thought I had discernment but I don't believe that now. I have found another church and have been going. Hopefully I'll be fed and be able to grow and have fellowship with others.
Now, along with my other worries, I have read that when the Great Apostasy comes during the Tribulation, that I will be one to fall away because I'm not a super Christian like Paul, or Peter, or John. I believe in Eternal Security, to a point, I guess. I don't believe in the "greasy-grace" that is taught today. I believe that if I truly believe in Jesus and let Him work in my life to change me and relied on it, that I was secure in my salvation. I have skimmed over the Apostasy page you have and will read it in full when I get the chance. I feel like I have to so far to go and I just won't get to that "magic" point where I'm good enough to persevere to the end. I saw that you believe that the Lord will protect those who are His (along with the 144,000) but, as I see it, I won't be in that protection because I'm not as strong in the Lord as I should be.
I'm sorry for the long email. When I started typing everything just started coming out. I felt led to write to you after reading your teaching. I have been blessed and I think I might have found a *safe* place on the Internet to learn and supplement my Bible reading/study. I pray that the Lord will continue to use you in this ministry.
God bless you! Yours (hopefully) in Christ,
It's very good to make your acquaintance, and let me start by assuring you that, yes, you are saved. You are so clearly a believer in Jesus Christ that I have no qualms about declaring it from what I read here.
I want to encourage you by telling you that your experiences are not at all unique. Your "problem" is that you care about your relationship with the Lord and really do want to live your life like He wants you to live it. That is not what is going on in most Christians' hearts these days: we live in the final Church era, the lukewarm "Laodicea" (see the link).
Please don't let the strident voices calling to doubt throw you off your stride. It is the easiest thing in the world for someone to get on the internet and teach lies, or preach doubts, or ramble on about things they don't understand. To be honest with you, there is little I personally find more despicable that ministers/ministries whose teaching cannot help but spread doubt and without giving any clear remedy for relieving those doubts either. Some do this to keep followers roped in (it's a classic cult technique); some do it just because they are incapable through lack of the gift or more often lack of adequate preparation to do anything else. But if a person were really interested in teaching the Word of God, wouldn't that person get some serious preparation? Wouldn't that person square away precisely what they believe first before teaching? Wouldn't that person be able to communicate a consistent, straight-forward message that spoke the verifiable truth? Wouldn't the way that truth was put make things crystal clear? Isn't that what the Lord wants from teachers? Giving forth the truth in an understandable, reliable, and true way?
No doubt what you have been experiencing is what I like to call "inoculation". With so much "untruth" out there, a believer who really wants to get going for Christ inevitably, it seems these days, has to go through a process of being inoculated to all manner of false teaching in order to appreciate what is not false. The Spirit is a sure guide in these things, and we have it from our dear Lord that if we keep knocking, it will be opened to us. It doesn't always happen overnight, as your experience shows, but I do hope that in Ichthys you will find a truly safe place where the waters of truth come forth in clarity and abundance, and in a healthy and edifying way: that is the purpose of this ministry.
As to salvation issues, it always very refreshing to find someone like yourself who, through Bible reading and spiritual common sense (aka the Spirit's teaching ministry) has pretty much figured things out correctly in spite of being bombarded by a plethora of lies and half-truths. Yes there is security in Jesus for all who believe Ė all believers are saved. No there is not absolute no-matter-what security for those who toss their faith away and reject Jesus Christ so as to become apostates Ė only believers are saved. As you have so correctly discerned, through your faith and by God's grace you are my fellow believer in Jesus Christ:
(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you Ė it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
As long as you maintain your faith in Christ, you are saved. And as long as you maintain your attitude of wanting to grow up in Him, you will really be fine. After all, the Christian life is not primarily about "holding on" Ė it is about "marching forward". We will all stand before our Lord to be evaluated at His judgment seat, and what all Christians should aspire to is not merely "being there" in eternity (although of course the last in line for rewards will be so much better off than the one in first place in perdition that there is no comparison to be made Ė and the last in line for rewards will be deliriously happy too), but what we should all want is to win the three crowns of reward that are given for attaining spiritual maturity, passing the tests that come to the mature believer, and fulfilling the ministries Christ assigns us thereafter (see the link): that is what our Lord wants, that is what truly glorifies Him.
There is nothing so stultifying in the church-visible as ministries that want to make everything about sin. Honestly, is there a single Christian out there who has been saved more than five minutes and who doesn't understand that we Christians ought to pursue sanctification and eschew sin? Problems arise when "well meaning" pastors/ministries" (in quotes because I have my doubts about the motivations) try to emphasize this point by adding to scripture or distorting scripture. Everyone sins (Rom.3:23). We all stumble in many ways (Jam.3:25). And anyone who claims they have no sin is deceiving themselves while anyone who claims they haven't sin is making God out to be a liar; these are paraphrases from 1st John (1Jn.1:9 and 1:10 respectively), and there are no passages anywhere in the Bible that teach that a believer is even capable of living a sinless life (and that includes 1st John; see the link).
No we should not sin. Yes we should Ė and as believers who are growing definitely will Ė come to sin less often and less spectacularly. But we are inhabiting bodies of corruption, and we are in the middle of a powerful warfare. We cannot live in this world and be perfect Ė but we have to fight on nonetheless. Blessedly, God has given us both the motivation to do what is right (positively through the Spirit and negatively through divine discipline: Heb.12), and the means of recovering when we do wrong (confession: 1Jn.1:9; see the link, and cf. 1Jn.2:1-2). We do need "defense" in the Christian walk, but neurotically fixating on sin to the detriment of growth through the Word of God is a recipe for spiritual torpor at best and spiritual decay at worst: we can't win this fight without a good "offense" (spiritual growth). We cannot sit down in place because we are worried about the road ahead and expect to make progress up that road. This is where the church-visible has fallen down Ė as you note, there are few places out there nowadays where an Christian eager to do so can be spiritually fed Ė and that goes a long way toward explaining why this ministry is on the internet.
The above is a very quick and very brief response which has glanced over a good number of important topics you broach. I would suggest that while the eschatological issues that interest are incredibly important (and these have been a good part of the focus of this ministry), you might want to start instead with some of the following links (which will lead in turn to many others).
Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin
Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness
Sin, Forgiveness, and Confession
Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)
Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin
Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology: the Study of Salvation
Do feel free to write back any time.
(3) May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, (4) and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, (5) who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time. (6) In anticipation of this ultimate deliverance, your joy overflows, though at present it may be your lot to suffer for a time through various trials (7) to the end that your faith may be shown to be genuine. This validation of your faith is far more valuable than gold, for gold, though it too is assayed by fire, ultimately perishes. But your faith, when proven genuine in the crucible of life, will result in praise, glory and honor for you at the glorious return of Jesus Christ. (8) Though you have never laid eyes on Him, yet you love Him. And though you cannot see Him at this present time, yet you have faith in Him. For this reason you rejoice with an inexpressible joy that bespeaks the glorious future to come, (9) when you shall carry off in victory the ultimate prize Ė the [eternal] deliverance of your lives Ė which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
1st Peter 1:3-9
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior for whom we live and in whom we have life eternal.
Hello again Bob,
I canít thank you enough for the very nice email. It has put my mind at ease (somewhat). I havenít been able to read your links yet, but I did want to write and say thank you and let you know I got the email.
I would like to write back when I do read those emails. Iím sure Iíll have more questions. I have felt that I was saved, but I know we can be deceived. Iím still having a problem with Luke 14 and becoming His disciple. Iím sure you donít have time to read with everything else you do, but this is a link to a page I read by A.W. Pink. This is one of the things that got me going a couple of months ago.
As I said in the other email, I believe that when I was saved that the Holy Spirit would work with me to clean me up. I know I needed to and was going to change when I accepted Christ. After reading what I read a couple of months ago and was so confused, I fell on my face, asked God for forgiveness and for the lack of growth, for sins again, and made sure I asked Jesus to be my Lord, if I hadnít already. Since then, Heís almost always in my thoughts. That wasnít always the case. Iíve always tried to have Jesus in every part of my life from cooking breakfast, having Him with me at work, driving, reading, prayer, whatever I was doing. I may not have always consulted Him or had wisdom in what I was doing (like watching some stuff on TV) but I never stuck Him in a box and pulled Him out on Sunday like most today. Maybe what Mr. Pink has written I am doing but not understanding his verbiage. I always understood Luke 14 as a heart issue. I want to love Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Do I? Not always. I believe I love Him more now than when I was saved and I love Him more today than yesterday. Do I take up my cross daily? I try to. Do I fail? YES! Everyday. I thought thatís where grace came in. He knows Iím trying and He would help me with those areas Iím not doing well enough in. Have I sold all of my possessions? No. I have no problem with doing it. Itís not my stuff anyway...itís His. I was told that the possessions passage was a heart issue. The rich young ruler loved his possessions more than Jesus. If He wants me to sell everything I would gladly do it. (on a side note, I wonder about the people who write that you have to sell all your stuff have actually done it themselves.)
I have been told that this type of "legalism" is called Lordship salvation. Like I said in the previous email, I donít know what to believe anymore. Your "inoculation" explanation makes sense. My eyes are now opened to so many "doctrines", "beliefs", etc that my head is spinning. I keep searching to make sure what Iíve believed has been true and not have fallen for the heresies that are out there but I find Iím more confused. I just need to get back heavily in the Word and ask the Spirit for help. As I said before, I think your site is great and safe, too.
Thanks again for answering my email. I really do appreciate it and your site.
Yours in Christ!
You are most welcome. I haven't gone through all of the Pink-link, but I find its premise dangerous. In my view, faith is faith. A person believes or does not. While it is fair to distinguish between knowledge and commitment, the Bible calls the latter faith; the former, if a person fails to commit/believe, is a rejection of the gospel, not a partial acceptance (there is no such thing). God knows the difference. So do we. You are saved (you were saved, are being saved and will be saved, to put it into theological tenses).
Please do not sell your possessions. I would like to tell those who push this point of view, "First, sell all of yours; second, provide me proof that you own nothing besides the clothes on your back; then, third, I will think about it". A better point of view perhaps is to be willing to do what Jesus tells us personally to do; if we were in that rich young ruler's shoes, we should have done so. We are not. Things are different now. Jesus is not here; He is not preparing Israel to respond to the offer of the Messiah; the cross is now history, as is the resurrection Ė and the gift of the Spirit too.
Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.
Luke 22:35-36 NIV
We now have to use the world's means to fight the battles we have been called to fight. Failing to understand these sorts of distinctions is at the root of many doctrinal errors. And, after all, those who follow antichrist will, by and large, do so because they are convinced he is the Christ come back Ė but they have gotten the timing of the second advent dead wrong, among many other things.
We live in a very intense time of the plan of God; few have been more intense (in spiritual terms). We do have to "count the cost" of what it takes to be good and effective disciples, but that means continuing to run the race when it is hard and continuing to fight the fight when it is difficult. It doesn't mean being perfect (that is impossible in these bodies in this world); it does mean staying in the race and in the fight in spite of imperfections, failures, defeats, disappointments, testing and opposition. Those who have the self-delusion of perfection are in reality sitting out the race and going AWOL from the fight. Don't listen to them or follow their example. Instead, set your eyes on the prize of the crowns of reward the Lord offers to all who grow spiritually, progress in the testing of this life, and help others do likewise through the proper function of their gifts in the several ministries to which they are called.
Do feel free to write me back any time.
In Jesus our dear and loving Lord and Savior,
Once again I thank you for writing me back. I appreciate it so much.
Donít worry, unless the Holy Spirit is convicting me to sell my stuff, I wonít. As weíve discussed, I wonder how many "ministers" and those that peddle their own opinions on things actually do them. My possessions donít possess me. I will admit that when I went through this "change", "process", "pruning" whatever you want to call it a couple of months ago, I have lost the desire to watch TV or be on Facebook. I know that He took that desire away from me. I was really spending too much time on both and not enough time in the Word. I havenít made it a "law" to others in my house or friends that they need to do the same. This was for ME.
I am very grateful for your words of support. Itís hard when you feel like the rug has been ripped out from underneath you. I believe deep down that I am saved and it really hurts me that I have doubted and have been confused. He is not the author of confusion or fear. I feel whatever I went through a couple of months ago (and the ongoing since) was from God. He was trying to show me something and bring me back around and get me prepared. Unfortunately, I let the Devil get in on it and confuse me. I have now been inoculated and hopefully will have better discernment. I think the worst site I saw was someone claiming that the Apostle Paul was a fake. THAT I didnít believe!
I have looked to Peter, especially, for help in areas I need improving. This Lordship salvation that Iíve read basically says you need to be perfect before coming to Christ. If I was perfect before coming to Christ, why do I need Him? That doesnít make sense! Heís Lord whether I say so or not. I do want Him to be Lord of my life but I certainly canít do it without Him changing me. Peter rebuked Him (Matt 16:23), lost faith in Him while walking on water (Matt 14:22-33), denied Him three times (Mark 14:66-72) and would only confess to phileo love for Him. Jesus showed him then and there that he was forgiven and still his disciple. That gives me hope as well.
Thanks again for writing me and sharing your wisdom and love for Christ. I will be reading those links from the first email in the coming days starting tomorrow.
May God continue to bless you and yours and this wonderful ministry you have on the Internet.
You are most welcome.
Good words of wisdom on your part throughout this email. Seems all you needed was a little help in the right direction. It's unfortunate, I suppose, that there are so many false guides out there and so many "road signs" pointing in the wrong directions (but I guess we all need to be pruned in preparation for what's coming).
On tiny little point: I know (and have often heard) that many make a large issue out of agapao vs. phileo in John chapter twenty-one, however, the two verbs are often used interchangeably (and, if anything, phileo has more "personal" connotations). Please see the link: response #2, point #3 in "Enoch's Walk with God and Some Questions in the Gospels"; and also: "(response #1: verbs for 'love' in the New Testament" and "verbs for love" response #2).
Best wishes for your continued advance and growth in the Lord Ė feel free to write any time.
In Jesus Christ our Savior,
Thank you for the correction regarding the conversation between Peter and Jesus. I have enjoyed reading all the links you have sent me. I am feeling more confident in my salvation with less wavering (and less reading on the Internet!) except your site. I feel like a new Christian after reading just a few pages on your site.
I am still feeling some anxiety, though, when it comes to the tribulation and Great Tribulation. I had come from the pre-trib background and what started this episode with me and feeling that I had lost my faith started with what I believe was the Holy Spirit telling me to search for the truth about the rapture and look into the post-trib rapture. Thatís when I found all those bad sites and teachings on the Internet. Of course, thatís when I found your site, so it wasnít all bad! Anyway, I know Iíve been tested throughout my life and I believe what Iíve been going through lately is a test of my faith. I know the times that are coming will be the worst ever and Iím scared that I will fail in my faith. I pray that Iím worthy and will not lose hope. Iím reading my Bible more and doing study on your site. I ask forgiveness for sins daily if not at the time I do them because I donít want to give Satan a foothold or have any hardening of my heart. Iíve been reading the Peter series and other things on your site that I can find on this issue. I donít know if Iím not seeing or understanding what you are saying. Friends say that He knows I love Him and want to please Him and will protect us through the tribulation but I keep saying thatís only if we donít lose our faith. I feel like this issue is holding me back. I want to move on from this and do my work for the Lord. I really do want to hear, "Well done" when the time comes.
One thing I was going to mention on the other email is that Iím not afraid to be a martyr for Jesus. I do have a peace about it, although as a fellow believer pointed out, there is no one sticking a gun in my face or hauling me off to prison. But I donít have a problem with dying or being thrown into prisonóto me, thatís not what is scary. Losing my faith during that time is what scares me.
Thank you again for taking the time to write me and helping me through this time. You and your site have been a blessing!
I'm very happy to learn of your spiritual growth. I think that is the main thing I would want to stress to you on these points, namely, if you are "going with God's program" of growth and progress and production, you have zero to worry about Ė and Christ tells us not to worry (about anything). You have the right and the responsibility as a Christian to be at peace and to have joy no matter how rough the sledding gets, and so you shall have, if you but keep on course and keep choosing the best part. The Lord never burdens us with anything we cannot handle (1Cor.10:13), so we can rest easy knowing that everything we are doing for Him and in response to Him now will be a key part of Him "working it all out together for good" then. I think you will find in the Coming Tribulation series at every turn our Lord demonstrating how believers are kept safe and blessed in spite of all the troubles ahead. Martyrdom, if it does come, will come to those who are prepared for, ready for it, and can even take joy in it. So there is no reason to fear Ė you will not lose your faith. Rather, you will convict the world through demonstrating the marvelous and resilient faith you most clearly have.
Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
I have read a small amount of articles on your website so please forgive me if you have previously addressed this issue.
I feel I need to include some background information before my question so if this is too long I'm sorry. I was involved in the same Pentecostal church for over 20 years. I left several months ago because I felt after lots of Bible study that what was being taught was not Biblical. I came to the same conclusion you have written about on your website about speaking in tongues.
A few things happened earlier in the year and I decided I didn't want to just accept what others told me the Bible said but wanted to know for myself without reading it with the idea that I already knew what it meant. I was shocked to say the least. The church I went to was the only one I went to in my adult life and I pretty much let them tell me what my life should be like. Well I felt this church lifted up the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues above everything else and having enough faith so that God would have to bless you or heal you was the next on the list. I didn't want to leave as I was very involved but I came to a breaking point one evening in service when people were speaking in tongues very loudly during praise and worship and I just kept thinking of the verse that says you should only speak in tongues at church with an interpreter.
It's been very hard since then and I really wish it didn't have to be this way. I miss the people I used to go to church with and none of them has really reached out to me for friendship without me being at church which I won't do.
I haven't been able to bring myself to go anywhere else because, frankly, I'm not sure I want to be apart of organized religion. Do you think that's wrong?
I love Jesus but don't know what to do now. I don't understand how God could allow me to live my whole life for Him and me not know I was on the wrong track until now? Did any of my service or the way I tried to live for Him mean anything if I wasn't doing it right?
Anyway last question why did God allow the Bible to be able to be interpreted so many ways? Wouldn't it of been easier to just write it all out clearly in black and white? When there are so many different ways to interpret it how will I ever know I have it right? That question makes me want to give up sometimes.
Thanks for reading this and again sorry it was long.
Very good to make your acquaintance.
Your experience is very similar to ones with which I am personally familiar, not to mention many testimonies I have heard in the course of this ministry. It is certainly possible for churches (and other organizations) of all types to be composed of "good people" with whom we may enjoy "sweet fellowship" without said places being on the right track for a person to truly grow spiritually. In fact, from what I have seen, there are plenty of places where the members are not saved and plenty of cult-like organizations where it is virtually impossible to be saved, where people can, nonetheless, develop close friendships and feel a sense of belonging. That is, of course, just what the evil one counts on. It is also true that in today's church-visible it is very hard to find a brick-and-mortar church where the Bible is being taught correctly and substantively as the main reason for the fellowship, with the mutual encouragement and ministry that results being focused like a laser-beam on the Word of God. It is so rare, in fact, that requests for recommendations and/or queries regarding what to do about this situation constitute a large volume of the mail I receive. It seems that the vast majority of Christians who have made or who have decided to make the truth of God's Word, growing in it, walking closer to Jesus through it, and ministering it to others, their life's objective are so "odd" in terms of what the church-visible is doing today that they have had to make "other arrangements". Blessedly, God has accommodated, with the result that ministries such as this one are now accessible even from half-way around the planet. We would all prefer to meet face to face and enjoy the blessings of good friendships, conversation and fellowship, but I know that when that is not possible the Lord is pleased with an attitude which prefers the truth of the Word of God to peripheral things when such things result in the Word being given second place, or being distorted, or being ignored entirely. This is a long way of saying that your experience is a very common one, that what you are doing is right and good and godly, and that you are certainly most welcome here at Ichthys (even if the electronic nature of the ministry makes things seem somewhat impersonal, our true "relationship" is with Jesus Christ, and we need to feed it with the truth, no matter what).
As to wasting time, I know that a cup of water offered in the Lord's Name will not lose its reward. I know that the apostle Paul spent a good deal of his life not only not progressing in the faith but actually persecuting unto death as an unbeliever those who did call Jesus Lord. I know that Peter denied the Lord three times, and that he had his ups and downs even after the gift of the Spirit. If you have wasted time, so have we all. If you have tarried long in a fellowship which was not conducive to the truth and to your growth, most of us have as well. This race is a race to the finish line. And that race is not to the swift. Victory goes to those who do get up when they have fallen, who do strengthen the feeble arms and weak knees and make level paths for the feet, and finally do get going for Jesus Christ. You have learned and you have grown and you have solidified in your faith Ė otherwise you would never be able to do what you have been and are doing now. I draw great encouragement from your courageous decisions and actions, and want to encourage you as well not be downhearted but rather to be determined to see this race through to the finish now, to grow and progress and minister the correct way, in order to hear that "well done!" before Christ's judgment seat, and to earn the three crowns that will glorify Him and bless you for all eternity (please see the link).
Here are some links that discuss the issues you have asked about from various standpoints (for advice on how to use Ichthys, see also FAQ #8. Recommended Sequence: Which of these studies should I read first?):
FAQ #3: Can you recommend a church?
Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.
Red Hot or Lukewarm?
The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly
The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV
The Local Church and Personal Ministry III
The Local Church and Personal Ministry II
Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.
Christian Unity and Divisiveness.
The Local Church and Personal Ministry I
Your brother in Jesus Christ,
Thanks for the timely response; my prayer to you and your ministry is the perfect reward from the Lord that cannot be compared with the earthly ones. Sir something is bothering me about Christianity in Nigeria; we have churches at least 2 or 3 in a street all over the country yet no single one is preparing any one for the tribulation or Christ's advent. All they preach is Tithing, Seed, Offerings, Uncommon Seed Sowing, even if one is an arm robber, ritualist etc no one cares, just bring the money. Many General Overseers of Mega churches here have at least 2 private Jets while some with Universities that member's children cannot enroll in, talk about cars, houses, big congregation and so on. I used to belong to a very small local church, but I was struck by your article "READ YOUR BIBLE" and many other wrong teaching like Tithes, Tongue, Rapture, Baptism, Faith without work, Miracles etc. I am one of the sunday school teachers. One day after reading about Miracle and Tongues at ICHTHYS.COM I taught my students about it because it was the topic for that day. ALAS, I was rebuked vehemently by the pastor and was also seen as bringing strange teaching to the church; in short am seen as someone that has lost my salvation. The pastor quoted 1st Tim.1:3-5 and one other related passages. Now how can I continue with teachings and doctrine that will not lead me to heaven? I know all the gimmicks that have been added are to make the ministry boom and it will ends here on earth and I don't want to hear from the Lord in the last day that "depart, you worker of iniquity for I do not know you". Here in Nigeria Tithes, Tongues, Rapture et al are taken so seriously that one cannot be seen as serious member without them, and one can hardly get any good church. Can you help?
Yours in Christ.
It is good to hear back from you, my friend! I want to encourage you to stick with the right path, the one the Spirit is leading you on to spiritual growth and production, and to a great reward too, I am sure.
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2nd Timothy 3:12
What you describe in Nigeria is in my view a perfect description of precisely what we have over here in the USA too. If there are any differences at all, perhaps it is in the fact that through time and practice the church-visible in my country is merely more practiced and polished in its hypocrisy. But it is certainly clear to me and many others that very few believers and even fewer churches in our Laodicean era are interested in the Lord's truth Ė which can only be gotten through careful and diligent attention to His holy Word. I receive emails all the time from believers in this country Ė and also from all over the world Ė complaining about these very same matters. I wish I could recommend a church or a denomination. Sadly, there are no denominations and almost no churches to which I would be comfortable directing a fellow believer who wants to walk closer with Jesus the only way that is really possible to do so, namely, through learning, believing, and applying the the truths of scripture. To that end, this is my church, and you are certainly welcome here any time!
I am struck by two things in your email: 1) the fact that your list is so close to most of the things that so distress me about contemporary practices in this country, and 2) your marvelous and sharp sense of just what is wrong! This latter is certainly a testimony to your own walk with the Lord and also to power of the Spirit in separating right from wrong for all who are willing to listen to Him and are interested in the truth. It seems that the two main areas of compromise and preferring of cheap substitutes to the teaching of the Word of God are emotionalism on the one hand and high ritual on the other. What all such things have in common is the replacement of substantive Bible teaching with entertainment which usually has only the most remote and tangential relationship to scriptures Ė and often completely contradicts them. This is a feature of the last times on the edge of which we now find ourselves.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
2nd Timothy 4:3 NIV
No doubt the Lord has led you out into the wilderness for your own spiritual benefit but also for that of others. Though the majority may oppose you, I will warrant that there are those who did respond to your teaching of the truth. A ministry for the Lord is a ministry for the Lord even if only two or three respond; a "ministry" which has nothing to do with the Lord is not at all regarded by Him even if it attracts tens of thousands. So I want to encourage you to continue to cultivate your gift, even as you are learning yourself, and take full advantage of the opportunities the Lord gives you minister to others who genuinely thirst for the truth. In so doing there is great reward.
Proclaim the Word! Keep at it, whether circumstances are favorable or not! Reprove, rebuke, [and] encourage with all patience [in your] teaching!
2nd Timothy 4:2
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over themónot because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
1st Peter 5:2-4 NIV
Thank you for all your kind words and prayers. I promise to keep you in my prayers as well, and wish for you not only continued personal spiritual advance but also a bountiful crop that will endure forever in New Jerusalem.
In the Lord Jesus whom we are here to serve,
Thank you for the encouraging words and God bless. I had read most of your email responses; in fact I downloaded all the e-mail responses I found and printed them regardless the cost. In one that I read a week ago about one of your friends on the internet who has a ministry and later drops to settle with family service to the Lord. I remember he ask if he could go to bible college or seminary and you response was he should try and study through all he could get from your site and also should try and learn church history, Greek and so on which I found fascinating. Here what you get in seminaries and bible college is how to grow your church with gimmicks and increase the offerings and tithes not true words which am not interested in because am very conscious of the end. I remember that you told your friend to start with systematic theology, and Greek study which you emphasized on the only downloadable e-book for Greek but immediately I tried to download both but just could not for over a week. Please I am begging you by the mercies if you can at least forward the sites I can get them from and other ones that could help me to grow in the knowledge of the word of God. I want to say thank you because your site and your teaching is now my daily bible study and I can realize and understand most things that were hidden from me for a long time. Before I sent the first e-mail I had been trying to send for over a month but the devil said you will not respond that you will be too busy to respond but when I got your first response, in fact I was very very happy. God bless you for giving me the chance and the opportunity. In Christ Our Lord and Savior.
Very good to hear back from you, my friend. Please do write whenever you want. Sometimes if I am out of town or otherwise occupied it might take me a little time to respond, but I do try to respond to all emails such as yours.
As to Greek resources online, I would recommend Allen's First Year of Greek as a wonderful introductory text (see the link for a good download site, the Internet Archive). I also have a page of Greek language resource links which may be helpful to you (see the link). One other wonderful resource I highly recommend is Pastor-Teacher Curtis Omo's Bible Academy (see the link).
As to seminary or Bible college, yes, I would exercise caution (especially when it comes to the latter). I went to seminary (focusing on Hebrew), and also got a second B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Classics (focusing on Greek). The seminary experience was very helpful mostly for the camaraderie I enjoyed with some like minded students Ė but that is something one cannot depend on. Also, the time is short. While Dr. L.S. Chafer remarked that even if he had only one year to give to ministry it would be worth ten years of preparation, we are almost down to that proportion in terms of the time that is left for those who want to undergo a decade-plus sort of preparation. Clearly, we all have particular gifts and ministries, and we need to be attentive to the Spirit's guidance about just how it is best to proceed.
I am encouraged by your dedication and thirst for the truth of God's Word, my friend. Keep on fighting this good fight of faith, and do feel free to write me any time.
You are in my prayers, and thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.
In Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd of the sheep,
I visited your web site and found the contents to be Biblical amidst growing misconceptions adding to Church Sermons these days. I believe the times are such that Devil is at full swing taking his toll even from the elect. I like to get your views about the following practices and teachings.
1. Worshippers falling backwards when laying of hands is thought to be a measure of spirituality. But Bible does not say so?
2. They teach blood of Jesus protects and heals. This too seem to be not in Bible
Appreciate your views
Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks so much for your kind words about this ministry.
As to your observation and questions, I certainly agree. There is no place in the Bible where anyone falls backward in conjunction with a laying on of hands. That is pure theatrics, nothing more. Indeed, the laying on of hands was a special apostolic ministry, and the last apostle of Christ died nearly 2,000 years ago. All who truly believe in Jesus Christ have the Holy Spirit from the point of salvation, otherwise they would not belong to Him (Rom.8:9; see also 1Cor.3:16; 6:19; 2Cor.1:22; Gal.3:2,3,5,6, 14; 4:6; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4; Jude 1:19). The sort of demonstration you report is designed to intrigue those who see it and to build up an audience, in the hope of increased contributions (nothing more).
As to the blood of Christ, it is important to understand that this is an analogy. John in His gospel and also in his first epistle goes to great lengths to prove that Jesus did not bleed to death. Jesus is the Lamb of God Ė not a literal lamb, but the figure of the lamb speaks of His willingness to be sacrificed for us; Jesus died spiritually in Calvary's darkness by being judged for the sins of the world Ė not in any literal spilling of physical blood, but in something far more significant: His actually paying of the fiery penalty for every sin every human being has ever committed. That is what the "blood of Christ" is, namely, spiritual and real, not merely physical and pertaining to shadows. Please see the links for the details:
The Blood of Christ
The Spiritual Death of Christ
The Lamb of God
Of course or Lord is our Fortress; that is true of all believers. We do not need some special pronouncement or special ritual or special dispensation from a third party for this protection (as if from some kind of "priest" with "magic powers"). We are walking on the water with Jesus, and He is holding us by the hand and keeping us from sinking.
This does not mean that we will not be tested in this life (we cannot grow without testing), that our faith will not be challenged by adverse events we cannot understand (if we could understand them, it would not take faith to get through them), or even that we will not be martyred for our Lord (that is the greatest compliment God can pay us, although of course the world does not see it that way).
In short, the practices you relate are symptomatic of a sort of Christianity, I would call it pseudo-Christianity (or at the very least very close to being false), where earthly prosperity is the goal and using God is the means to attain it. But all true Christians understand that we are not of this world. We are looking to an eternal reward which cannot dim or fade or be stolen or decay Ė and we are looking to please Jesus Christ our Master, not ourselves. That may not be exciting, it may not be materially profitable, and it certainly isn't understood by the world. But this life is very short, and we who have put our hope in Jesus Christ for salvation and life eternal understand that even gaining the entire world for a few short years cannot be put in the balance with the least reward of the least Christian in line at the judgment seat of Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faithóof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fireómay result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1st Peter 1:3-9 NIV
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior,
Many thanks and what an encouragement to go through your very descriptive answer. Praise God for the guidance He gave you through Holy Spirit to spend your valuable time in replying me which is not a waste by any means but of much value. I was not sure of a response but delighted to see the reply this morning in return.
I am a Born Again Christian affiliated to the Baptist Church in Sri Lanka.
You are very welcome!
I am very happy to be able to be of some small help to your spiritual growth in our dear Lord Jesus.
Your brother in Christ,
Dear Brother Bob,
Here is my question. Many of your Ichthys students are true scholars, learning Greek and Hebrew in order to delve more deeply into the Word. But many others of them are new believers, or confused about doctrines and traditions they have learned and they ask simple questions that a lot of us were taught in Sunday School as small children. The more I grow as a believer, the more I find that the truths I learned as a child are truly the important steps to salvation. And throughout my life, those are the truths that kept me going somehow.
I realize God has called some to be teachers and scholars, but for those of us who have other callings, do we need to learn new languages so we can test what we hear and read? I always double check my Bible if I hear something that doesn't jibe with what I know or believe, and I'll use my Strong's concordance, but do I need more?
I guess I'm asking do I trust my discernment? And how far should I go as an ordinary believer who has not been called to teach or preach to provide myself with the tools necessary to sharpen my discernment? Of course, a heart open to the Holy Spirit is the only thing I truly need, but I am a "trust but verify" type. I have fallen prey to some false teachings in the past.
A close relative attends an Assembly of God church, and I used to attend with him until I just couldn't stand it anymore. The pastor is a very good teacher, and his teachings are correct until he gets into the doctrine of the Pentecostal movement. He teaches the second baptism in the Holy Spirit as manifested by speaking in tongues, and he teaches faith healing. My relative has never spoken in tongues, so he believes he doesn't have enough faith and worries about his salvation (he grew up as a Roman Catholic, so you know how he was programmed as a child.) Yet he is one of the strongest Christians I have ever known. He walks by faith and every decision he makes is based on prayer and the Word. He loves the Lord above all things.
The church services are very disorderly, and sometimes scary. The choruses drone on for an hour. A person will just pipe up with a word of knowledge, or start spouting gibberish, or jump up and start running up and down the aisles. They become disruptive during communion. I have actually felt the presence of evil during these antics. And all of these things are treated with respect and no interpretation. The final straw for me was a woman sharing a word of knowledge that was clearly un-Biblical (she said God needed us!)
I worry about these people. They are so wound up in the emotionalism and the circus, they deny the simple truth right before their eyes.
I know the history and background of the Pentecostal movement. But why is it they base their entire belief system on an isolated incident in Acts 2, yet ignore or misinterpret everything Paul says about tongues throughout the rest of the Bible? Will these antics and teachings lead not to salvation but to hell?
God bless you and keep you and cause his light to shine upon you always.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our only hope and healer,
Good to hear from you. Thanks so much for your kind words, and I'm happy to hear about your good news as well.
As to your questions, it seems to me that your own approach of "trust but verify" is exactly right and just what scripture commends and commands. How to go about that process is also something you seem to be doing in precisely the correct way. You read your Bible and you check your Bible, and you have also done what you can to investigate claims that are beyond your expertise. Most importantly, you listen to the Spirit in just the right way, using truth as your touchstone. While it is true that becoming sensitive to the Spirit's still, small voice is in large part a product of an individual Christian's spiritual growth, it is also true that many Christians of varying degrees of spiritual maturity either go too far (i.e., get their emotional reactions mixed up with the Spirit's prodding) or not far enough (i.e., take an entirely calculating and cerebral approach to weighing and testing things for the truth without involving their consciences). You are in that "sweet spot" in the middle between the two extremes, and I take the fact that you are vetting your approach as a good sign too. If we are too confident we are "right", we may not be listening closely enough; if we are never sure of ourselves, it is certain we are not really listening to Him at all. I think your excellent analysis of Pentecostalism proves my point. The Spirit has led you to precisely the right understanding of what is wrong with it and why in a way that rivals even the best exegesis of the scriptures which deal with these matters Ė with the result that your heart is absolutely prepared to receive such teaching when said correct teaching reaches your ears.
As to the "why they do what they do", I'm not sure that is a question which can be answered dogmatically. There are all manner of false doctrines and false approaches and compromised groups out there, and they are all composed of a multifarious collection of individuals whose motives and antecedents are widely varied. I do think it is fair to say that the "exciting" and "emotional" nature of that movement is what attracts most people to it. From the standpoint of the clergy so involved, the enthusiasm of those attracted is intoxicating (it also lends itself more readily to monetary contributions and obedience to whatever the leadership desires at any given moment). All cults manipulate the emotions of their victims. And in my observation and experience one of the most powerful of these is guilt. Even in the (initially) "positive" atmosphere of the Pentecostal milieu, guilt is never far away Ė as your report about your relative's misgivings shows very well. But as I am always quick to point out, our emotions are meant to support our minds and spirits, not to lead them. If we cleave to the truth and follow the truth, eventually, our emotions will follow. But if we follow our "hearts" without our heads, we will likely fall into this or some similar trap. I do have a number of things you might find helpful on these matters. Please see the links:
Who controls our thoughts and emotions?
All Things Charismatic
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.
And please also do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Dr Robert,
I enjoyed reading your sermon on the plan of God. Thank you for that. By the way I would like to ask you one question. Please respond me when you have time. I have been trying to know what is God's call for me. Sometimes I think that God has nothing for me and I was hopeless. As life is short and very busy my desire is to do the job that God has called me to do or what he has plan for me. In your sermon you said that God has a plan for all believers but I don't know what he wants me to do. I am a social worker but I don't feel that this is what he has called me to do. Before I am a social worker I was a pastor back in my home country. Now as I live in my adopted Australia country I have to do this my current job for my family living. But I always has a feeling that this job is not right for me. So, if you could kindly respond my sincere question that would be very much appreciated.
Very good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your kind words about this ministry. I am glad you enjoyed the posting on the Plan of God. God has a plan for us all, and we are all included in His plan, more to the point. He knows all about you and all you have done and will decide to do. He knows what your talents and capabilities and gifts are Ė He gave them to you. It sounds to me as if He is working in your heart to lead you to a deeper walk with Him and our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As it says in 1st Corinthians chapter 12, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work" (vv.4-6, NIV).
There is a common misconception abroad in the church-visible that only those who are in traditional "full time Christian service" are being used by the Lord. I beg to differ. The types of gifts the Spirit gives are manifold, as are the ministries Christ assigns and the effects the Father grants (as in the quote above). Further, not a day goes by without the Lord providing us with ample opportunities to minister. Indeed, the plan of God for us all is that after being born again we are to grow spiritually day by day (through prayer, Bible reading, accessing good Bible teaching, and believing the truth of what we learn), progress in our walk with Jesus through applying what we have believed to our daily lives and passing the tests that come, and help others do the same through ministering to the Body of Christ. The latter point you ask about will become more pronounced and more specific in terms of a particular ministry the Lord calls us to after we have grown up spiritually.
So the two most common mistakes Christians make when they begin to ponder this question of service in their hearts are 1) assuming that only "traditional" ministries in "brick and mortar churches" are meaningful (when in fact these are often pointless and inconsequential, especially in our day and age), and 2) assuming that ministry should come immediately before spiritual growth, when in fact we can only help other Christians effectively if we ourselves have progressed in the Christian life to the point of being able to render adequate help.
What Christians who feel this urge to serve are often tempted to do is to quit their day job (usually a big mistake), enter a seminary or Bible college (this might also be a mistake, and will in any case not do the main thing that needs to be done, to wit, result in growing up and progressing spiritually), and then enter into a traditional ministry thereafter (which may make them feel better about their life-choices but will not necessarily actually help other Christians very much or earn any particular reward Ė and may end up worse than if they had not embarked on this course in the first place). That is to say, good intentions are wonderful, but, if the course of action taken as a result is a disastrous, one they will not count for much reward in the end.
The apostle Paul spent a large amount of time in his years of ministering for the Name of Jesus Christ making tents. Now without question a lesser man might have decried the waste of time in sewing canvas when there was so much that needed to be done for the Church. But Paul never complained. Indeed, he made the best out of it. So it should be with us. Given the short amount of time left before our Lord returns, these issues are even more critical than before. As I always advise everyone who writes me, personal spiritual growth should be the number one concern and objective, followed closely by applying the truth we have believed to our day to day walk with Jesus Christ and in response to the testing we are allowed to endure to help us grow. And He will provide ministry opportunities for us. After all, if spiritual growth and progress for all Christians is the goal Ė and it is Ė then all ministry deemed "good" by our Lord will involve helping others to come to Him and be saved, and, also very importantly, grow up spiritually thereafter. Since the latter area is so woefully "under-staffed" in our era of Laodicea, this is always the place I would advise Christians who want to produce for our Lord to keep an eye on. The particular acts of ministry He leads us to while we grow may take many forms, and the eventual "life ministry" He leads us into when we have grown and progressed to solid maturity may very well not look anything like "traditional ministry" Ė in fact the odds are, in my view, that it will not if indeed it is really from Christ and not from our own self-willed actions.
So I would advise you to commit this to the Lord in prayer, to make your own personal spiritual advance the number one priority of your life, and to keep an open mind an attentive ear to the Spirit as you watch for the opportunities for service the Lord has for you. In doing these things there is great satisfaction in this life, and a wonderful reward awaiting you before the judgment seat of Christ on that great day of days to come.
In Jesus Christ who is our all and our everything,
Dear Dr. Bob,
Thank you so much for your advice which is very precious to me. Now I think I will be on the right path given on your comments. I will do more and more personal devotion for my spiritual growth while doing my current job. As you said at the sometimes, I will be praying for full times service opportunity in His ministry. Please post to me your sermon or papers in the futures. Hope that will help me so much in my spiritual growth. And please if you don't mind can you tell where do you work and which church you belong to. I assume you are a professor in theological institute.
You are very welcome. I am happy to hear that you found this response helpful.
I have added your email address to my notification list per your request (you may have it removed any time; I pray through the list on a regular basis).
There is no notification per se for the weekly email response postings as there is an RSS feed for that. You can subscribe at the following link:
Ichthys RSS feed
I am a professor at a secular university (see the link for my C.V.). As to churches, Ichthys is "my church", and you are welcome here any time.
Best wishes for your continued spiritual growth and future production for our dear Lord Jesus.
Dear Professor Bob,
It surprised to me when I checked your CHURCH in Google. If I am not wrong it is neither a denomination nor a visible church that has members of congregations. I was thinking if I come to US for holiday in the future I might come to visit your church. But I wouldn't be able to see it as it is not a visible congregational church. If you do not attend church services how to you have fellowship with other believers and where do you give offering. Just being curious because I never know any church like yours. If you don't want to answer me that's fine. I just asked because it has made me so surprise. I ever learnt about invisible church while I was in theological seminar. However, I've never seen it in reality. Now if my assumption about your church is true it would be the first time ever I know this invisible church. Anyway I have subscribed into your Ichthys RSS feed because I want to read more of your sermon and paper. Please always post me it anytime.
Thank you so much for having a chance to get in contact with you.
God bless your ministry more and more.
Well I guess the good news is that you don't have to come to the US to see Ichthys Ė you can see it on the internet anytime and anyplace.
The Church (with a capital "c") is the Body of Jesus Christ, and is composed of all believers from Adam and Eve until the last person saved before Christ's return. We cannot see this Church with our physical eyes, but it is all around us in the persons of true Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are all one Church, one Body, one with Jesus Christ, regardless of what building we walk into Ė provided we are truly believers born again through faith in the Person and the work of Jesus Christ our Savior.
The time is short. The Tribulation is close. When it begins, antichrist will co-opt all visible religion (see the link). Even today, in the case of most traditional, modern, and mega churches, "your assembling does more harm than good" (1Cor.11:17; cf. Amos 5:21), and that will be doubly so once the beast begins his nefarious activities. In other words, in my view it is too late to try and change the whole rotten system from inside. That would be like putting "new wine" into old skins in any case, with the likely result of busting the skins and losing the wine.
I welcome you to Ichthys any time, my friend!
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you again for a clear explanation, Professor Bob. I like your doctrine of belief and was convinced that that is true. But please let me ask you do you mean that people gathering church is not required? If we believers ourselves are the body of Christ which is a Church. Just would like to know why we need this gathering for Sunday worship.
Thanks for patiently answering me.
Ideally, we can find a place to fellowship with other Christians. But the point of view which says "it's better to gather at least somewhere on Sunday, even if it compromises all my principles, than to seek some alternative form of fellowship" is in my view erroneous. Going to a non-Christian fellowship or to a barely-Christian fellowship where the whole approach is wrong, where the truth is not taught, a place which is awash with false doctrines, will not only not produce the spiritual growth and encouragement which is the whole reason for getting together in the first place Ė it can actually do harm and send a Christian backward spiritually (especially if that person buys into such false doctrines prevalent nowadays as tithing, joining, water-baptizing, legalism, etc.).
The reason so few "churches" are anything like what the Bible envisages as true Christian fellowships is because most Christians tolerate the poor substitutes Ė or even glory in them. This is the era of Laodicea, and the lukewarmness prophesied in Revelation chapter three is certainly the norm today. Given how little time is left before the Tribulation begins, while it might be a noble task to try and set up some biblically acceptable and profitable fellowship, there is also an argument to be made for getting the best of the teaching available wherever it may be found instead. In my opinion, it is certainly too late in the game to try and change an already existing "church" from the inside. As I said, that would be a case of "new wine into old skins" in any event, a dicey proposition which seldom works. With the little time remaining, such a course seems unlikely to prosper in my view.
You are very welcome at Ichthys, and certainly I would encourage you to join with any and all genuine believers you may come across who really are doing what you are attempting to do, namely, putting the Word of God and your walk with Jesus ahead of all other things. It is not impossible that you may find a formalized fellowship in a brick and mortar location where that is the case. It is just that in this Church era, this late in the game, with all the negative trends afoot, it is very unlikely.
Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
Your friend in Jesus Christ Ė may you win a rich reward before Him on that great day of days to come.