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Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth III

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Question #1:  

Is the way God loves the elect and the unelect like how a father views his child and an animal? I heard one pastor say that God does love the unelect in the same way that a father loves a deer that he shoots for his son so that his son can learn how to hunt: the father does love the deer, but definitely not in the same way he loves his child.

Response #1: 

God loves everyone (Jn.3:16). Jesus died for everyone (1Jn.2:2). God wants all to be saved (1Tim.2:4). The only reason unbelievers go to hell is because they won't love Him back – they love themselves too much. This is another problem with hyper-Calvinist theology.

All spirits are eternal and animals are not here in the world to choose. So (my interpretation), they all have a free pass to the next life – in the same way that humans who die before the age of accountability or are not mentally capable of choosing do (that is the only point of comparison that is valid).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:


Are the "word studies" here accurate?

Also, I was thinking about why the "Joker" and the "killer clown" villain archetype has resonated so strongly with people today, and I think it has to do with the fact that such an archetype is a visual representation of the wicked fool. The wicked fool is not merely simple or lacking discernment, but rather is perverse in thinking both morally and intellectually.

Response #2: 

This article is an example of the kind of thing which was all the rage in seminary in my day and which is even more common in pretend-teaching churches in evangelicaldom today. These five words are synonyms. There may be some small validity in finding a "flavor" here or there that differentiates them, but not nearly with enough specificity and consistency to offer up a categorical study such as this – and I would quarrel with any of these five as legitimate as a true biblical "sub-category of fool". All of these words are talking about fools of one type or another (to the extent that these words mean that); to the extent that (and in cases where) they mean something a little different, the correct procedure is to translate them accordingly. Say there is such a thing as a "wicked fool" as opposed to another "type" of fool – what does that mean, practically speaking for the mature believer's application of the truth? Nothing that I can see (especially if as here what we have is an over-reach of interpretation). On the other hand, believing in such (false) categorization might cause a person either to fixate on it (focusing on a nothing-burger instead of the truth) or to misapply the truth by missing the main point: all fools have in common that they reject the truth. That is the truly important point here. You and I (and most normal people) know what a fool is. We also know what it means to be wicked, silly, naive (simple?!), scornful, stubborn (steadfast?!). Combinations of qualities occur all the time. But one or two instances don't make a category (especially not a biblically significant one).

In the interpretation of any literature, it is always a mistake to assign categorical value to words which don't actually possess it, considering terms to be technical which are really only general – but then there are entire schools of [false] interpretation which are predicated on doing precisely that (all the rage in academia today in many fields and going as far back as Origen in biblical interpretation).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

What does this verse mean?

"those who say, 'By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?'"
(Psalm 12:4)

Response #3: 

As the prior context shows, this is a characteristic of the ungodly – who are taking over the world today. This verse you ask about shows their thought process. They are able do anything – because they can turn their own lies into "the truth" and destroy the truth with their lips. Thus, they plan to be victorious in any contest, legal or otherwise, though these evil means. In other words, this is what the arrogant always do and always have done, "putting the truth to death". It's the only way that Satan could convince himself or others of the possibility of victory, it's the only way to be an atheist, or to believe in evolution – and we see the modern world awash with this sort of thing in every corner. This sort of boasting in semantic victory through distortion and attack on the truth is getting more and more prevalent in our own day, and no doubt is an important part of the devil's efforts in preparing the ground for antichrist.

The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.
Psalm 12:8 NIV (1984)

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Dear Mr. Luginbill,

I am looking on behalf of a loved one for input on the path back to faith for him. He has been battling for the past many years. He began from a state in which he was believing in Jesus, communicating obviously, and relying on God to keep his promises, desiring to trust in nothing else. There is a further complicating background of having chosen under consideration of the necessity to fear God, rather than man (Beast), and to prepare for the big changes that might come soon one way. We live in reportedly one of the most demonically besieged cities in the U.S. He stepped into spiritual conflict in God's service as he saw it (even while telling God that he knew himself to be weak in faith and was relying on God to uphold his faith in the face of the persecution). Since then he has been continually attacked, demonically to our way of thinking, to the stated purpose (by one of the earlier attack interactions) of condemning him to hell, and his family with him. Because of the demands of work and the reluctance of pastors and friends to get involved, he has been very much isolated from supporting encouragement, and as the doubts and confusion have grown, he has lost his grasp on the truth of the identity of Christ. Since the beginning he has been in mourning over his loss of ability to discern God's voice, and then over his increasing loss of trust, until he has been ground down to only desiring the good God of Truth, and feeling utterly lost.

Just before this past Easter he became convinced that he could not rightly trust Jesus because of the similarities between the betrayal by God that he has experienced, and the behavior of the devil and certain other god-like things that are supposed to be related to our understanding of Jesus (as the 'Yah' or 'El' and maybe others like 'Loki'), as well as the behavior of David towards Uriah. I told him that this exposure to the legends during his weakness is a typical, classic-pattern deception by the devil that he must reject, and take hold instead on the presentation of Christ that he gives us in the Bible, but he feels that without God's help, he does not have the strength to do so. He says that I have in effect watched God allow his soul to be murdered before my eyes.

In this last year, I have been convicted that it is my duty to try to cooperate with God to rescue him, a change in me that I attribute to God's gradual leading. So, rather than only lamenting and begging for him before God and waiting on the hope that God is allowing this process for good reason and will complete the work of salvation that He obviously had begun, which I did for a number of years, I have recently worked at being attentive and inviting him to tell me his specific concerns and confirming or countering them from what teaching and Scripture I remember or come across.

I've been asked to see if I can find someone, knowing themselves to specifically be *not* an eater of sheep, willing to talk him through the confusions and identify the truth that will be enough for him to grasp Christ as true, the God of Truth, justly the Lord and Savior, and receive the grace of trust in Him. He expects it would take at least several sessions of several hours' duration if face to face; I wonder if email would do, or possibly phone for some of it. If you are willing to help, I can write up a lot of details to start, tell you some of the things he and I have discussed and might try, and see what you can put in from direct Scripture and experience. If you know yourself not to eat the sheep that God gives into your care, and if He moves you to convey grace in this, we would really appreciate your help.

Thank you,

Response #4: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

I don't do Christian counseling, but I will try to give you here the benefit of my perspective on things – which I dearly hope will prove helpful for you and your loved one.

To use an analogy from the medical realm, if a person has a serious potassium deficiency, no amount of testing, no amount of stretching, no amount of exercise or alternative therapy or radiation or surgery or anything else in the world that could be applied is going to be of any help . . . absent the intake of high potassium foods. And secondly and very importantly, no matter how big the bowl of Swiss chard or bananas placed in front of the person with the deficiency, it won't help either if the person refuses to eat it.

Anyone with any sort of "spiritual problem" whatever it may be can always trace that problem back to an analogous deficiency, a deficiency of truth. Whether it be a case of not having good Bible teaching of the truth available . . . or refusing to access it or to believe the truth when taught . . . spiritual problems will persist until the deficit is remedied. The biggest differences between my analogy and the more important spiritual realm are that 1) good, sound, substantive and orthodox Bible teaching is a very rare thing to find these days as most churches and groups have raced after the sensational, the entertaining, the ornate – regardless of the lack of spiritual nutritional value, and 2) putting one's faith in the truth and then actually applying it to one's life and life circumstances is not so easy to do (i.e., it's much more of a challenge than eating a dish of potassium-rich white beans).

To the extent that he (or anyone else) is interested in learning and living by the truth, these Bible studies at Ichthys are free and available – and I stand ready to answer readers' questions on the specifics. To that extent that he (or anyone else) is not willing to respond to the truth, there is very little that you or I or anyone else can do about it. We can pray (and I have said a prayer for him and for you); and we can keep doing the right thing ourselves in hopes that those we love will see our good witness and be led to respond. But we can't reach inside their hearts and throw the switch. This life is all about free will – that is why we are left here on earth after salvation, namely, to prove that our faith in Jesus Christ really is genuine, and to show just how much we love the Lord (or don't).

That said, things that are not true can knock any believer down. Navigating the devil's world in a godly way is difficult enough for those who are doing things the right way: reading their Bibles daily, spending time in prayer, and, most importantly of all, accessing good teaching, believing the truth they are taught, and becoming better day by day at applying that truth to their lives, winning the victory of making every thought captive for Christ (2Cor.10:5). For those who have been sold a pack of lies, large or small, every untruth makes things just that much more difficult to walk with our Lord the correct way. And as you rightly observe, there are countless "ministries" and so-called Christian groups out there today which are predatory, and many more which are devoid of much of anything that is positive in terms of helping Christians advance spiritually.

Some things which come to mind from what you have related here:

1) Christian service: The Holy Spirit has given all believers spiritual gifts, and Jesus Christ has a specific ministry for every believer (1Cor.12:4-7). However, while all Christians should help others in the Church when and where they can, even as spiritual infants, the life-ministry of any believer is only going to become apparent – and can only be done effectively – after reaching spiritual maturity and after passing the serious testing that comes to all who are advancing towards the next level. Believers who try to put the cart before the horse can perhaps be applauded for their good intentions, but won't have the spiritual wherewithal to endure the pressures which always accompany genuine ministry (cf. 1Tim.3:6).

2) Faith: Just as having weak biceps or strong is the result of choices we make about whether or not to exercise them, so weakness in faith just like strength in faith is a choice. It is not easy to be strong in faith – just as it is not easy to do anything hard or difficult or challenging in the physical realm. But unlike professional athletics, for example, where only the few are even able to meet that challenge, when it comes to faith we all have the necessary "muscle"; we just need to put in the sweat to exercise that muscle of faith to the point of becoming strong. Faith is trusting God. Trusting God is a choice. Faith starts out small and weak – like a mustard seed; faith can grow as large and tall and strong as we are willing to have it grow – into a veritable tree. But that takes effort. That takes the truth of the Word. That takes commitment to learning the truth step by step, precept by precept, and believing it even when it seems hard to do. That takes trusting in God's faithfulness when the pressure is on (rather than failing to do so as the exodus generation did "ten times"), being confident that His plan is perfect and that He is perfectly faithful, putting doubt and worry to death and making Him our Stronghold.

Faith is believing what we can't see or physically prove, but that is the way to please God because faith is trusting God and saying in our hearts that He is worthy of our trust, thus honoring Him. (Heb.11:1ff.). The more we start trusting God in the little things, the more we will find we are able to trust Him in the big things, until, finally, we will begin to trust Him completely no matter what – just as if we could see Him right here in front of us. And He is, of course, right here in front of us, and beside us and inside of us. But are we willing to believe that truth? Please understand. Faith that matters is faith in the truth. Belief that matters is belief in the truth. We trust the One true God our Father and His Son, the Lord God Jesus Christ, and we do so in the power of God the Holy Spirit. And we trust that the Word He has given us is true. If we are not sure what it means on any given point, that is where Bible teaching comes in.

3) Demonic attack: There is no doubt that the world is in the lap of the evil one (1Jn.5:19). There is no doubt that every Christian is under continually demon observation and attack – but what does that mean? We cannot see the conflict that is swirling invisibly around us . . . and it would be a grave mistake to think that somehow we might or could somehow engage in it. The way we are to fight this fight is to proceed as if the evil one's minions were not even there, trusting the Lord to provide whatever protection we need so that we may do what we need to do to continue our forward march to Zion, growing, progressing, and helping others do the same in order to gain the eternal rewards we will enjoy forever (see the link: "Rewards").

There are limits set by God upon what the demons are allowed to do, especially to believers. After all, the least powerful of Satan's henchmen could destroy the entire human race in a day – were that allowed. But they would be thrown into the Abyss if they tried to do anything that violated God's strictures. Satan had to petition God to do what he did to Job – and in the end Job received more than he had lost through his terrible ordeal. I realize that there are many so-called "ministries" nowadays which seek to engage in "spiritual warfare" through unauthorized exorcism and "binding" and all manner of very dangerous non-biblical nonsense. But we are never told to do such things and we are not authorized by scripture to do any such thing. Similarly, the demons and human beings who claim to have traffic with them are not able to do more than allowed. No one can curse someone in this way you relate – not actually and efficaciously. Such activities can only harm to the extent that the "victim" erroneously believes that there is something to it. There is not. Again, we have to trust God and what He says, not what people say.

"I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one."
John 17:15 NKJV

That is one prayer we can be confident is being answered daily.

Here are a few links on all this:

Spiritual Warfare V

Spiritual Warfare IV: Demons, Demonic Influences and Satanic Methodology

Spiritual Warfare III: Peter's 'Angel', Saul's Death, and Strange Events

Spiritual Warfare II

Faith, Hope and Love: Virtue in Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare

4) The Person of Christ: Jesus Christ is God. He is also a genuine human being since the virgin birth. He is one unique person with two natures, human and divine. He took on true humanity in order to come into this world to save us – and so He did! After walking a perfect walk and showing us the truth, He allowed Himself to be crucified, and then to rise in the flames in the darkness being judged for all of our sins (2Cor.5:21; 1Pet.2:24). We who are believers have placed our faith in Him to save us from death and judgment, putting our faith in His perfect person (He is God and man) and in His perfect work on the cross in paying as our Substitute the complete penalty for all of our sins (aka, "the blood of Christ"; see the link). We who have put our trust in Him, who He is and what He has done and who are looking to salvation from this world through Him, WE are believers. Those who do not, are not (Jn.3:18).

5) The voice of God: I have heard over my lifetime very many believers complain about being "spiritually dry", however one wants to describe this syndrome you relate. The problem is never that God is not doing enough – God stands ready to do more than we can imagine in our wildest dreams. The problems come when believers fail to take responsibility for our own spiritual lives. Are we reading our Bibles? Are we praying? Are we accessing good Bible teaching daily, learning diligently what we are taught, committing it to our hearts by believing it, and trying to walk in that truth more and more day by day? Are we delighting ourselves in the truth and occupying our hearts and minds with the precious things we know to be true? And if we are, how much energy, time and joy are we committing to this most important "thing" we are to do day by day as long as it is called today, namely, growing in grace through the truth (2Pet.3:18)? If we are feeling "dry", we will find, if only we start doing a few good and proper things (or doing them better and with more delight), that the waters will begin to flow in response until they become "a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (Jn.4:14). It is not easy. It is not quick. It takes time and effort – "blood, sweat and tears" at times. It takes guiding and weaning and training our emotions. But it is the only godly way forward.

6) God's faithfulness: In the history of the world, our God has never "betrayed" anyone. God forbid! He is perfect. His character is perfect. He is faithful, completely so, 100% so. Indeed, it would violate His perfection to be anything else. Not a single believer in the history of the world has ever received anything from His but absolute and perfect faithfulness. And if we think otherwise, we need to bury our faces in the dirt and ask for His forgiveness. What is the proof? If proof is needed, the cross is the proof Jesus Christ died for our sins. He died for all of our sins, for every sin that every human being has ever committed or ever will. He paid the entire penalty for every sin, whether the least sin of the least sinful person who has ever lived or the greatest sin of the worst sinner who has ever lived – even of those who reject Him – and every single other sin in between. We were not capable, we were not willing, we were not fit to die for a single sin, not for the least of our sins – for God demands a perfect and holy sacrifice without spot or blemish. And if all our sorrows, troubles and pain were condensed into one bitter pill, it would not equal what Christ suffered to take away that least of our sins – nor would all the suffering of the entire human race from Eden to kingdom come. So great is the cross. The smallest part of what Jesus did for us is greater than all that is or was or will be in the history of the universe. All we can see or imagine or know along with the same from all other human beings and angels is a mere drop from a bucket awash in the infinite sea of glory Christ won in dying for the sins of the entire world – a glorious jewel set in the infinite love of God: "God loved the world so much that He gave up His one and only Son . . ." (Jn.3:16). God not faithful? God knows – His faithfulness exceeds the bounds of all human and angelic imagination. And if we are too consumed by our own troubles to appreciate what He has done for us, it is we who need to adjust, not He.

7) The truth of scripture: It is pointless to argue with anyone who wants to put other things, legends, myths, science, religion, whatever they are, on a par with the Bible (or, heaven forbid, above it). To get anywhere in the spiritual life, we have to believe that God's Word is the truth. Now it may take effort and time to find out what it means, to remember it, to fully digest it, to find a place that is truly teaching it, to learn it, to love it, to live it. But the Word of God, the Bible, is the truth. We believed a very small piece of that truth, the gospel, in order to be saved – and our salvation depends upon holding that truth fast in our hearts. For all who believe in Jesus Christ are saved now and will be delivered from death and judgment when He returns for us. But those who do not believe in Him, His perfect person and His perfect work on the cross, are not saved – even if they once believed; and even if a person once did not believe, by faith said person will be saved (Rom.11:19-23). And just as we came to Christ – by believing some of God's truth – so also we advance and grow in Christ: by believing (one hopes) all of God's truth. It's all about the truth.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above, and also to access anything you please at Ichthys – there is never any charge or solicitation for donations (which this ministry does not accept in any case).

Here are some other links which may be useful:

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth I

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for the prayer and the outline, I will try to look into bringing those points to him in the course of building up his faith as God gives progression. (Sorry my writing is often cryptic if I don't explain everything.) Please continue to pray for us.

Here is an approximation of what I think of my own state right now (you are currently my closest contact who would understand this, as a statement of faith for the purpose of girding on strength and humility). In hope of Christ's full payment for my sins, and with evidence that God continues to work changes in my character, I want to respond to Him in love and drop the things that become known to be off the mark (sin), to cooperate in and not offend against the goodness God is working. I fear (respect) God in such ways as recognizing (He did some convincing) that His ways are better than my ways, and being careful of them when I am able (aware and willing), and trying to stay away from influences that could shake my hold on the teachings I so carefully learned when I first came to faith. On the other hand, I am often dangerously (offensively) afraid of acknowledging Christ before others (for such trivial reasons compared to the man sent to heal Saul/Paul); I find myself lazy, self-focused, and brash; often taken up with business or needing to just rest, rather than pulled to God (but He does usually pull me to spontaneous prayer at many times during my day).

This is what is happening currently:
I am almost done writing everything I can think of in our history to do with our ups and downs of faithfulness and to do with the interactions with God I have already recognized (and am watching for more patterns to recognize). When I am done, I will have those available for reference when we talk with a Baptist deacon and a priest (Rom. Cath.) who have both asked us to call them about his crisis. [I am so glad that God has recently, finally mobilized myself (who was formerly terrified) and these others (counselors who were in former years unreachable) to come to his aid. Because this availability of help is so different from how things used to be, I am hopeful it indicates that God is now acting to bring about whatever needed change He intends, to reconcile his spirit to the Holy Spirit and move to the next phase.]

Every few days or at least every weekend, he talks with me about specifics of his current viewpoint. It makes me think of all sorts of similar examples in the Bible, but I am unsure of correct interpretations. I have looked at some of the emails from your site and get glimmers, but a lot seems to be to other points, not ours (of course). Most recently, in the (standardized 'catholic') readings at church, Jesus has been making statements that (to me) state that the built-in obvious consequence of final unbelief is torment, with the root cause being that the need of the shape God made the person (to be fulfilled only by being with God) will then never be satisfied.

This past Sunday we had Mt 10:26-33. He is disturbed by two statements in this passage: 'be afraid of the one who can destroy (what is the actual meaning of this?) both soul and body in Gehenna.' The other of these statements was that if a person denies Christ before men, He will deny that person before the Father in Heaven (I am of the take that this is seen to go on during times when a person is apostate or double-minded or refuses the power of religion etc. -- Christ will not be answering a lot of prayer by a person in such a state lest His glory for His acts be attributed to another source, etc.. And then there is the probability that this statement also applies to the judgment of being finally in or out of Christ, because that seems the theme of the whole passage. <Do you see a definite application in this regard?)

He is bothered by the appearance of bullying threat in the various statements, because it does not jibe (to him) with the idea that Truth will of its nature be convincing (to a sane mind) so that threats and negative bribes (as the statements appear to him) are not consistent with one presenting the Truth. In contrast, I think that Christ, knowing well what is in man, casts the consequences as threatening for the purpose of letting sinners (and sinful believers) have at least a touch of the emotional motivation of fear (or more if needed), until they are in the position of abiding in His love (perfect love casts out fear). It seems an example of skillful Good Shepherding. We actually should be afraid of causing harm by sin and of being in the torment of destruction of the soul through our own choice of refusing perfect good (who is God). So as Christ is not a deceiver, nor a condemning bully, but leads into grasping the Truth by the Holy Spirit, His purpose is to use truth to lead people into yet wider truth (the wide space of grace). <Do you see a path supported by Scripture, and not contradicting Scripture, to explain this to him?

What he says is the problem, against being ok with these statements, is that he currently is not trusting that God actually does have good will (consistently to all, as claimed by the Bible -- in some places of OT especially God declares intent or necessity of harm <he is concerned that the harm seems to be declared against individuals who are of good will (like himself) as well as against those who choose evil, just because they are in a given situation together -- can you address?) or necessarily the ability to come through with good will if He does have it (because of his begging God to do Is 58 rearguard action to sustain his trust which instead gradually gave way). He says, just this past Sunday, that he sees God has definitely been being good to him in many ways; He has been reading the Bible and trying to pray, but hasn't been able to recognize anything in his prayer as being specifically led by the Holy Spirit. This is not (to me) a clear-cut instance of refusal to believe like King Ahaz. <Do you know more examples of falling short in faith, like the king who shot too few arrows, or the fleeing of Elijah, or the striking the rock twice by Moses ... anything that might be instructive or parallel to his battle and indicate how to cooperate with a positive outcome?

I have an inkling that his impression of the way Jesus is meaning these statements is colored by his own state (as in, to the just, God is (seems) just, but to the wicked, perverse) -- I think he is rebelling somehow against the chastisement he has been receiving for something he doesn't see, just as kids rebel against discipline when they don't agree they're wrong. I am not sure how to or if I am responsible to pinpoint what that offense was (I have been instructed to let God be God and just try to help him as much as possible). But I feel like cooperating with God in correcting whatever it is, is very important.

He carefully considers everything I suggest he look at; I need to be gentle but truthful. Looking at the patterns of his character and interactions in faith, I wonder if I might see what God is working on with him: Mainly I see the possibility that he might have been deficient in loving our relatives during much of this time, but in the past two years that has changed amazingly, so maybe that was the missing part for Is 58 (do not turn your back on your own) and maybe God has already been correcting it. Or there might be another problem (such as relying on obedience to make a claim on God's action) that God needed to make painfully clear so it could be changed to reliance on grace. Or both. Or it might be some other thing God is working on with the chastisement, for reconciliation of his spirit while he served God under persecution (but I can't see anything else in the present analysis of what he has been like). I am hesitant to insist that my analysis is correct and thereby accuse him of particular wrongdoing -- what if I am wrong, and make him miss what God actually wants him to receive? But is it right to gently try to help him investigate these avenues and any other that might appear (and how do I do that?)? <Will it be all right to just commit the whole conversation to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and then work at agreeing with Him? Is this what you yourself do -- like what Jesus promised He would do for testimony before kings? If you don't feel qualified to answer these kinds of questions, not being a spiritual director, let me know. Please do see if you have consistent Scripture-and-Holy Spirit-based reasonings or at least interpretations that I can give to him about the notes in < above, if it is appropriate for you to.

Thank you,

Response #5: 

Good to hear from you again.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 KJV

I'm not sure how much more positive one can get than this verse.

I always try to start and end with the cross. We all sin (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2); therefore we are all corrupt and unworthy even to enter the presence of holiness. But even though we had nothing whatsoever to offer, the Father sent the Son to die on the cross, to bear all of our sins in the darkness and pay the entire penalty for them. That is love! There is nothing greater that could be imagined. And what does He demand from us to escape the lake of fire and instead have a blissful and perfect eternal life? Merely that we acknowledge His Son and what His Son did for us – that we believe in Christ, His person, the God-man, and His work, His death on the cross. The cross is so much bigger than anything that is or ever could be that there is no proper point of comparison.

In the face of such perfect and self-sacrificial love, what can be said of anyone who refuses to accept such a Gift? It can only be from a deep-seated pride and rebellion, wanting to put self above God regardless of the folly and the consequences. Yet that is where most of the human race is at.

If your loved one is a believer, the answer to all of his troubles is to engage with and accept the truth. You and he are very much welcome to everything at Ichthys. When you say "a lot seems to be to other points, not ours (of course)", I have to say that this a mistake many people make. All truth is important, and unless a believer is committed to learning everything the Bible has for us, those gaps in his/her spiritual education will cause problems, because every point of truth reinforces, explains, supports and elucidates every other – just like every brick in a building serves an essential purpose, and if too many are missing in the first story, the whole structure is liable to collapse under stress. Or what if a doctor knows all he/she needs to know about the digestive system but not about the circulatory and the lymphatic systems, what use will that be if a patient has a dire illness the doctor cannot recognize? It's all important, and, more to the point, spiritual recovery is much more effective if all truth is embraced as the truth (1Thes.2:13).

Matthew 10:26-33: All believers are saved. Only unbelievers are not saved. Unbelievers manifest their status in what they think, say and do, and so do believers. What we think, say and do – our works – do not make us believers nor are they necessary to be saved: we are saved by faith, not by works (Eph.2:8-9). By works, no one can be justified (Gal.2:16). It is true that not all scriptures appeal to us positively and there are many which take the other approach. This is good, salutary, right and fair. We love our children, and we hope they do the right thing always. We give them incentives and encouragement to do the right thing. But if we didn't alert them to the consequences of bad behavior, how would that be truly "loving"? We have to give them rules, boundaries, and warn them about the dangers of life. "Go ahead, Billy, don't bother to look when you cross the street. I love you!" – is clearly the wrong approach.

As to "good will", I'm not sure what to say because that is not a biblical term. Jesus told us that no one is "good" except for God (Matt.19:17; Mk.10:18; Lk.18:19). And that is the truth. We are only "worthless servants" (Lk.17:10), and whatever "good" we may do is only so because God empowers it. What passes for "good" in this world is usually evil in disguise. God wants all to be saved from hell (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), and He gains no pleasure from anyone's condemnation (Jn.3:17). Indeed, remember the cross! He put His own dear Son to death - - to a death more horrible than at present we have the slightest idea – so that all might be saved. Any one who is not saved is not saved because they have chosen not to be saved, because they rejected the Gift from selfish motivations.

As to falling short – we all fall short. There is scarcely a great believer in scripture who doesn't have at least one huge mistake recorded in the Bible for us. David committed adultery with Uriah's wife and had him murdered to cover the crime – but David confessed and was restored in every way. Now David did suffer massive divine discipline for those sins (fourteen years worth which saw one son murder another and try to wrest the kingdom from his father), but Christ paid for his sins . . . as He has paid for all of ours. And David will rule Israel during the Millennium as Christ's regent and one of the greatest believers who has ever lived.

Spiritual recovery, like the gospel, is close at hand not far away (Deut.30:11-16; Rom.10:6-13); like the Word of truth it is "in the heart and in the mouth" wherein one can truly repent and ask forgiveness and be restored – just like the prodigal son.

"And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate."
Luke 15:21-24 NASB

As to when to remonstrate with other believers about points of truth or engage unbelievers in a conversation about the gospel, those are judgment calls, the right and the wrong of which have much to do with circumstances. The Spirit as our Guide helps us figure out the when and the what and the how. The one common factor in this is that the other party has to be willing at least to some degree to accept the truth. If that willingness is absent, no particular good is likely to come (cf. Matt.7:6).

One last observation. As I mentioned last time, it is the truth of the Bible, explicated by a good teaching ministry (in conjunction with prayer and Bible reading), that leads to spiritual growth and healing. So I commend spiritual growth, but am very leery of other things. To that point, while I have known very many honorable people in my life who just happened to be of the Roman Catholic religion, there is nothing of value in that religion, and any counseling or engagement with members of its clergy for help in spiritual matters is likely to be a mistake.

I am keeping you and him in my prayers.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Thanks again.

I had a few more questions.

1) What is the meaning of walking with God?

2) What does it mean to fear God?

3) Around how old was Adam when he fell? How are we to arrive at that conclusion?

4) How are Christians to draw the line between, not casting pearls before dogs and swine and loving our enemies? When should we be kind and patient and when are we walk away and have no more to do with such?

Response #6: 

Hello Friend,

You're most welcome, as always. As to your new set of questions:

1) The life of the believer is often compared in scripture to a path leading upward; on this path we should make it our endeavor to "walk with Him" every step of the way. We accomplish this by living our lives God's way, namely, by growing in His truth, progressing in our relationship with Jesus Christ through following that truth, and helping others along "the way" by ministering to them so they may also do the same. Christ is "the Way, the truth and the life", and when we do grow as we should we find ourselves closer to Him as we progress through this life. There is much to say on this subject – so much that the next installment of Bible Basics will deal with this exact area of truth: "Peripateology", namely, the believer's walk with the Lord. Until that becomes available (this coming summer, is my hope), here are a few links to give you more detail:

Walking with Jesus

Imitating Christ: Peter #17

Pursuing a Deeper Relationship with Jesus

The Christian Walk

Walking the Path of Faith

Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Growth II

Spiritual Growth III

2) God is love. God is also righteousness and justice. He is the source of all grace and goodness. He is also the One who metes out condemnation and judgment on those who rebel against Him. Knowing all this, the natural response to understanding His true character ought to be complete love and appreciation for all He has done for us, but also complete reverence and awe for His power and perfect character. God is the perfect Father. We may (or may not) have had good fathers, but we certainly didn't have perfect all-powerful ones. Our heavenly Father is just so. Therefore just as we loved (or could conceive of loving) a good earthly father, so we ought to love our perfect heavenly Father all the more. And just as we respected (or could/should/might have respected) our earthly fathers, so all the more we ought to have nothing but reverence and respect for the One who holds our lives in His hands – as well as all other things – and who knows everything about us, even before we have done whatever it is (Heb.12:9). That is not "fear" in the sense of terror or horror; that is "godly fear" in the sense of having complete respect and reverence for the One who is due the ultimate in awe. See the links: "Don't be afraid" and "What is a healthy fear of God?"

3) Adam was apparently approximately in his fifties at the fall (and as such had the equivalent of a full life to get to "know the ropes" before Eve was fatally tempted and he went along – because he started life as an adult already). We come to this figure by computation of the genealogies in Genesis and the other chronological information contained in scripture; that is all put together in SR 5, but here is a link to a chart and discussion which contains the same information: "The Seven Millennial Days".

4) The hows and whens and wheres of witnessing also have to do with the Christian walk. That is to say, this is a question not of truth per se (since both principles are true), but of applying the truth to specific life circumstances. As these things actually play out, you have no doubt seen some cases where it would be obvious even to a baby believer that associating with some people and/or trying to evangelize them was a mistake (e.g., people involved in organized crime), and other instances where receptiveness to the truth was obvious and nothing whatsoever was present that might suggest such association and witnessing was a mistake. So what we are discussing here are the "harder cases" in-between. Solving these problems is something only mature believers get good at – and that is the case with all such questions of application where biblical principles – and often multiple ones – have to be applied to some complex situation. Spiritual discernment grows as the believer grows. So the answer to "how" is not a legalistic or formulaic one – such things are impossible to achieve in any case because the number and variation of possible circumstances is innumerable and kaleidoscopic. But as we grow in all aspects of the truth, as we mature in Christ, as we begin walking more closely to Him, as we become better at listening to the Spirit's still, small voice, the more able we become to make "the right call" in difficult to interpret life circumstances.

Solid [spiritual] food is for the [spiritually] mature, those who by [diligent] practice have trained their [moral] perceptive faculties to [properly] distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge (epignosis: truth believed) and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

(1) Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. (2) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2 (cf. Rom.2:17-18)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Thank you. Do you think smoking is sin? I don't smoking; actually I hate that smell. But if drinking alcohol is not a sin than smoking does not have to be too. I think addiction is sin, so this is a reason why could be this could be sinful. Am I right?

Response #7: 

The Bible doesn't say anything about smoking tobacco. So any conclusion a person would make about it personally would be on the basis of other factors (such as the inadvisability of doing things to knowingly damage one's health, unnecessary waste of one's resources for a bad cause, causing trouble for others, or concern about one's Christian witness, etc.). As I have written previously:

Baptist churches in my observation and experience also tend to be quite legalistic about the behavior of their members (and intrusive in trying to control them – a cult-like characteristic), including in areas which are not strictly prohibited by the Bible as sinful, smoking, for example. Smoking is bad for one's health among other noxious things one could say about it, but it is not something a church should make an issue of in spiritual terms (this is just one of many examples).

As to addiction, the Bible doesn't say anything about addiction, either. Being in a state of chemical / physical dependency on something doesn't strike me as having the characteristics of a sin per se. If such addiction leads a person to do something wrong, however (such as being addicted to porn), the fact of addiction does not change the fact that the sin it leads to is a sin. Now how a person got addicted to something in the first place might involve sinful behavior, sinful attitudes, sinful thoughts, etc.. In terms of smoking, deliberately doing so against the wishes of others who are exposed to it against their will would be wrong. But it would also be wrong to judge a fellow Christian harshly just because he/she smokes.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hi Bob,

Today I was taking a drive in the country and looking at the trees. And I remembered: every one of those trees has its roots (no pun intended) on the third day of creation.


Response #8: 

Good for you. It's a mark of growth when instead of falling into "normal" and "natural" patterns of thinking, our thoughts begin to be dominated by the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hi Bob,

It seems to me very difficult to separate how most think of the Trinity from tritheism. Recently, I learned from other Christians that the correct way to think of the Trinity is that the trinity is like how Peter, James, and John are three persons that are human (sharing a common humanity), so the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three persons that are God (sharing a common divinity).

But this seems to be just three divine beings that are each omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.


Response #9: 

I agree that this is a terrible and incorrect example. Human beings are all human but do not share one and the same essence the way the Trinity does; and even the most agreeable three human beings who ever lived are never "one" in regard to all they think, say and do the way the Trinity is: three Persons, one essence. That doesn't answer everyone's questions because everyone's questions can't be answered this side of eternity. God exists outside of time and space. We can say that but we can't really fathom that.

Question #10:  

OK, as long as I know that this example is incorrect. That is what I was looking for.

Sometimes I wonder if the popularity of these incorrect teachings might be a "sign" of the end: as Antichrist advents, he'll portray himself, the False Prophet, and the Dragon as a pseudotrinity (really three pagan gods) and the once-Christian populace will eat it up entirely.

Response #10: 

A good point. All that is false and believed as true weakens a person spiritually; only what is true and believed produces spiritual growth and can be used by the Spirit to guide us.

Question #11:  

There's also the question of how conceptions of the Trinity that lead too close to tritheism reject the atonement of Jesus Christ in a different way:

A key point of doctrine is that when Jesus died on the cross, God died on the cross. That is, it was just as good as God the Father himself dying on the cross except that it wasn't God the Father. So if they are just three divine beings that are each all-powerful, then that statement may no longer be true. So it is inconsistent with the atonement just as unitary monotheism is inconsistent with the atonement.

Response #11: 

Only a human body could bear sins; only a perfect human body was qualified to do so; only a human being who was also God could endure that "death". God cannot die or suffer the way Jesus did in His humanity. The incarnation was thus always part of the plan of God – indeed, the foundation of it – because initiating creation and making creatures with free will guaranteed sin which could only be atoned for by the death of our Savior as a genuine human being in addition to His deity.

In our dear Savior.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

1. The Genesis gap has increasingly been viewed with smirks and a "oh, isn't this so quaint?" reaction from the community of Hebrew scholars and contemporary theologians, but never taken seriously. I hate to admit it, but I am more influenced by other people than I would like to admit. (1 Cor. 15:33) I do think that if we accept that the Bible is a unified composition with one author (God) and that if we accept that the second verse begins with a waw-disjunctive, that it really is the most natural interpretation of the text.

2. On the other hand, because Revelation has been dismissed out of hand by many as being mostly a fantasy novel, especially by "Reformed" Christians, it is actually easier for me to look at it objectively. One of the overarching structures I have noticed is that the letters to the seven churches addresses primarily Greek-speaking cities, while the rest of the book then suddenly shifts focus to Jerusalem and the temple. This strongly supports the idea that these are two entirely different chronological periods of history.

3. I cannot help but wonder how our current head of state of this country has come to both symbolize and be a cause of the underlying decay of our nation's moral fabric in a way that is unprecedented by any leader prior. Unlike the 43rd president, whom I was mostly angry at, this is the first leader whom I am mostly scared of. This also is the scariest time of "peace" I've ever seen. And Russia makes it infinitely worse.

Response #12: 

I like observations #1 and #2 very much.

As for #3, I always counsel Christians who are fretting themselves over politics to "let it go":

1) The Tribulation is going to arrive right on time regardless of who is president or who wins this or that election.

2) While political policies actually implemented do affect people, they do so on the margins (from God's point of view – the only important point of view), and, as Christians, we understand that the Lord is looking out for us: just like those who gathered more manna didn't have too much and those who gathered little had enough, we can be sure that the Lord is going to modulate what we have in just the right way – if we are actually following Him and living for Him.

3) And if we ARE following Him and living for Him, as long as we are not physically prohibited from doing so by the state, that is really the only important thing in the political sphere we need to even take note of.

4) Our true home is the New Jerusalem, our true bodies are in heaven and have yet to be revealed (2Cor.5:1; 1Jn.3:2), and our true citizenship is in heaven and it from there that we are waiting for the Lord who is our true Ruler, our true King (Phil.3:20-21).

5) But every time we take the bait and get upset about politics or politicians or other people's political opinions we are delivering self-inflicted wounds on our spirituality, wasting our time, energy and emotion, shifting our focus from the Lord and the reward we desire for all eternity to the mess of pottage of the "here and now" which is temporary and means nothing, thereby rendering ourselves vulnerable to Satanic attack.

So as I always counsel, the best policy is as much emotional detachment from the goings on of this world, politics in particular, as is humanly possible – and then add an extra pinch of disinterest for good measure.

Your friend in Jesus Christ who is our actual King.

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Dear Bob,

I hope this finds you happy and in good health. I am writing this time to consult an issue that I have already mentioned before to you, but not fully answered. As a man of God, I am sure that you have intimate knowledge of things that are not publicly discussed because of their theological implications, or are not common. As you know, I have had a LIFELONG struggle with getting work, with retaining money, with people trying to dispossess me of my house, with rejection in general. I am dedicated to God, I pray incessantly, I do not harm others, I help people within my means, I have renounced sex, drugs, alcohol and anything that might displease Our Lord. I read my Bible, not assiduously, but every other day. In short, why is it that I feel that God rejects me? How can it be possible that, being honest to a fault, intelligent, hard working, excellent academic credentials, etc. etc., I have struggled with finding employment, with not getting left out of businesses I think of, with being attacked by those that are supposed to help me out of gratitude, friendship, or whatever? Has voodoo been done to me? Am I paying for my father’s (or mother’s) sins? Is it ok to consult someone who can cancel anything bad done to me? I know what your answer is going to be in this last subject, as I am fully aware that God prohibits this. But then, is He not powerful enough to destroy any curse cast on me? Is there a possibility that only someone that works those arts can neutralize a curse or spell? I don't understand why I feel that God doesn't like me, that he barely tolerates me. I have asked for forgiveness every day of my life for any sin I committed, and even for those I cannot remember. In short, Bob, I am at the end of my rope. I truly feel God just doesn't like me, if anything, barely tolerates me. This is quite a disheartening thought, as I think of Job and his trials. I have been rejected by family (for money) and quite alone in this world. Are God’s tests are lifelong thing? Any light you might shed on my predicament will be highly appreciated. If you think out of the box, possibly demons can cancel curses made by others, though I think of how can a kingdom divided stand as the Bible teaches us.

God bless you and take care of you.

Response #13: 

I'm sorry to hear that you are having such troubles, my friend. I do want to start by saying that it is a fiction that anyone can place some curse on us or any such thing:

"I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one."
John 17:15 NKJV

That is one prayer we can be confident is being answered . . . since it is offered by the Son of God to God the Father.

In terms of your suffering, here is what I read in scripture:

So what shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over for our sake, how will He not also graciously give us everything [we need] along with [that gift of] Him? Who will [dare to] bring charges against God's elect? God is the One who is pronouncing [us] justified. Who is he that condemns [us]? Christ Jesus is the One who died [condemned in our place], and the One, moreover, who was raised from the dead [for us], who is [seated] at the right hand of God, who is also making petitions on our behalf. What will separate us from Christ's love? Tribulation? Or privation? Or persecution? Or hunger? Or destitution? Or danger? Or violence? As it is written, "For your sake we are being put to death all day long. We were accounted as sheep for slaughter". But in all such things we are decisively victorious through Him who loved us [enough to do what He did for us]. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angelic nor human authorities, neither things present nor things to come, neither heavenly powers, be they the highest [of the elect] or the lowest [of the fallen], nor any other created thing [on this earth] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-39

Please take special note: "neither angelic nor human authorities, neither things present nor things to come, neither heavenly powers, be they the highest [of the elect] or the lowest [of the fallen], nor any other created thing [on this earth]" (NIV has "neither angels nor demons").

Here is something else I read in scripture:

"If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?"
Job 7:20 NIV

The speaker here is Job, of course, and one could easily pick out many more verses in this book which say similar things. When we read these things, we want to shout at Job, "You're wrong, Job! The Lord has not forsaken you, nor is He punishing you! This is all about you giving a good witness when things are tough!" But do we ever shout this at ourselves?

There are many reasons for Christian suffering (the unfinished Peter's epistles series at the link is all about this topic), some of them deserved (the Lord is indeed disciplining us); but often suffering is undeserved (i.e., "sharing the sufferings of Christ": (Rom.8:17; 2Cor.1:5; Phil.1:29-30; 3:10; Col.1:24; 2Tim.2:12; 1Pet.4:12-13; cf. Matt.10:38; 16:24; Mk.8:34; 10:21; 10:38-39; Lk.9:23; 14:27; Acts 5:41; 2Cor.4:10-11; Gal.6:17; 1Thes.1:6; 2Thes.1:4-5; 2Tim.3:12; see the link: in CT 2A: "sharing in the sufferings of Christ" is a part of the normal Christian experience"). In fact, such undeserved suffering is a mark of having made spiritual progress, a part of the refining process of spiritual growth whereby we learn to trust the Lord more when times are tough, not less (as in Job's failure). We do have to give Job a bit of a pass because he did not have "the Book of Job" to go to school on – but we do.

(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 – the [eternal] deliverance of your lives – which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
1st Peter 1:3-9

Some things to remember:

1) It could be worse. There are believers rotting in gulags in North Korea and elsewhere whose daily suffering puts a lifetime of trouble here in the west into the shade.

2) It will get worse. The Tribulation is coming soon enough. Whatever we think is "tough" now is doubtless merely basic training provided by a caring and loving Lord to help us get ready – so we need to let Him help us do so.

3) God knows what He is doing. Whatever the reason for anything that happens to us, it has all been written in the divine decrees and is all part of a perfect, all-encompassing plan. And the Lord has us personally in mind in that plan, "working out for good" absolutely everything for those who love Him (Rom.8:28) – but we have to take that on faith many times.

4) The Lord is worthy of our trust 100% and beyond. He has never let any Christian down ever, not even a little bit. He is perfect. If He ever let anyone down ever even a little bit, He would not be God – but He sent His only Son to die for all of our sins, the suffering of death for the least sin in human history is more than all our troubles rolled into one bitter pill – collectively.

5) Only by trusting Him when it is hard will we ever grow:

Therefore I rejoice in my weaknesses, in the abuses against me, in these pressures, in persecutions and disasters on account of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:10

I am praying about this for you, my friend, have been and will continue. I know that Lord has not abandoned you, that He has forgiven you anything needing to be forgiven when you confessed to Him, that if there is residual discipline it is for blessing now and not for cursing – to teach you how to trust Him more – and that He will deliver you in the right way at the right time. I have no doubt that you could have told me the same, were I coming to you and were I the one under such pressure instead of yourself – and you would have been right. But it's not just understanding these truths intellectually that make for spiritual greatness. It's living by them in the fire of testing that produces great growth of faith. He will not let you be put through more than you can bear.

You have not suffered any testing beyond normal human [experience]. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tested beyond your capacity, but, along with the test, He will grant you the way out, so that you can bear up under it (i.e., even if you have to face the Tribulation).
1st Corinthians 10:13

Does Jesus love you? God knows He does! He died for us all. What greater love is there than that?

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8 NKJV

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Hi Bob,

I find chastity to be better than marriage. I really do think that the chaste Christian is happier than the married Christian. And don't let the false desire for children deride your ultimate concern!

"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant--to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever."
(Isaiah 56:4-5)

Better. God does not "stretch the truth." It will be better.

Response #14: 

As our Lord said:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
Matthew 19:12 RSV

But not everyone is able to receive it, as Paul says:

I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
1st Corinthians 7:7 NIV

So while marriage is most definitely "trouble" and Paul was "trying to spare" us (1Cor.7:28), and while marriage also makes dedication to the Lord more problematic (1Cor.7:32-34), it is the normal state for all but those few who are "gifted" like Paul (as in 1Cor.7:7). I've probably said before that this "gift" doesn't mean the absence or diminution of temptation or desire but rather the ability to tough it out and not succumb to it – something even those without that gift are supposed to do unless and until the Lord provides the right spouse.

Praying for you daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hi I have question about Romans 13:1-7

So if I cross the speed limit on the road I'm a sinner?

Or for example if I give a little taste of beer to my son who is not adult, I'm a sinner?

Response #15: 

We are all sinners, my friend, made holy by the blood of Christ. But while believers are positionally sanctified, every human being sins every day – if we are honest with ourselves and if we really do understand what sin is (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2), not just what we do but what we say and what we think. But thanks be to God that Jesus died for all of our sins, that we have eternally been forgiven them all, and that we are forgiven even for fellowship in this life and cleansed from all unrighteousness if only we confess to Him (1Jn.1:9).

That said, it seems obvious to me that Romans 13:1-7 is talking about much weightier matters than the minor civil infractions of the type you mention here.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

So you think it's not sin? (Btw. in our country its very usual drinking beer and giving to children in small amounts). So I don't much understand these verses.

Response #16: 

What I said was that sin is much more pervasive than most people have any idea. Anything we think, say or do might be a sin – if it violates God's will, whether or not the specific act is even mentioned in scripture (this is all covered in detail in BB 3B: Hamartiology). If you ask me, there are many sins worse than giving your son a drink of beer even if it violates some civil statute. What I find important about this question is the danger of slipping into legalism: sin is everywhere, and in order to live godly for Christ Jesus we need to walk in love and grow in grace (spiritually) so as to be able to gain the victory over it. We're not going to get there by worrying about petty things. I have seen this many times, and in legalistic circles matters often devolve to a point where some things (often not even sins) become the "things to avoid as sins" while many other things (which actually are sins) are not even taken into account. God is not an accountant. He wants us to grow in our love for Him and for each other. That will result in love – "the fulfillment of the Law" – in the end (Rom.13:10), but getting actuarial about this issue – meaning, getting legalistic – won't. In Romans chapter thirteen, if you read it carefully, Paul isn't talking about minor civil infractions; he's talking about revolution, serious crime, failure to pay taxes – not things for which you'd get a "speeding ticket" but things for which in his time you'd get your head chopped off: "for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason" (Rom.13:4 NIV).

Question #17:  

I have question from OT when God wants to set free the Israelites. I heard that God hardened the Egyptians' heart. And after that God kill lots of them. Sorry I don't know verses; I just heard that. Can you tell me how was it and what is the truth? Thank you very much

Response #17: 

As to Exodus, we are told that the Lord "hardened Pharaoh's heart" (Ex.9:12; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10; 14:8; that is, the ruler's heart only), but also that "Pharaoh hardened his [own] heart" (Ex.8:15; 8:32; 9:34 ). What this means is the Pharaoh was the one wanting to harden his heart, and the Lord gave him a special ability to do so (the details may be found in the study, "Exodus 14"): there is a limit – without such a divine grant of ability – to what mere mortals can experience from God and not submit to Him. Before Him when He is revealed, "every knee will bow" (Is.45:23; Rom.14:11), and we can see by the reaction of Pharaoh's court that they reached that limit of unwilling submission long before the ten plagues were done (e.g., Ex.10:7). This is an important event because it demonstrates that unbelievers, given the image of God, are really determined not to submit to God and would never submit to God in their heart of hearts if that were an enduring option. They will get what they want, in a way, an eternity without God . . . in the lake of fire.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Hi Bob,

Current pagan trends list – I'm using "pagan" specifically in the original sense of the word: adherents of the unwritten and unspoken of but yet clearly taught (mysteriously!) civil religion shared by unbelievers in the United States. Here is a list of some of those characteristics:

1. Obsession with teenage Jesus but ignoring the real Jesus. Searching for extrabiblical material to "tickle the ear."
2. Judas apologetics or glorification of Judas (e.g. focus on "lost gospels," or giving him a sympathetic portrayal in musical adaptations)
3. Sorting sins into unavoidable (saying "Oh my God!", private hatred, etc...) and inexcusable (murder, kidnapping, etc...), as opposed to the correct way of sorting people as either forgiven or unforgiven. The hardest one to let go of. But it is absolutely the most important one that must go first!
4. Possessing the same "faith" as the Devil (that is, intellectually acknowledging the existence of God but rejecting all communication from the Holy Spirit).
5. Accepting any and all sexual indulgence as "needed appetites" as opposed to self-destructive and soul-destructive behavior using the ultimate apologetic lie: but it doesn't hurt anybody! OR
6. Obsession with space aliens.
7. Always turning to finding new methods and abilities as opposed to turning to God in humility and contrition: using technology as a means to subjugate the universe to YOUR will as opposed to a tool: the real reason why magic in the Bible is a sin.
8. Idolizing money and purchasing power. Money is effectively your God whom you worship and adore.
9. Turning to environmentalism and veganism as ersatz "purity" movements, as opposed to cultivating actual purity.
and last but not least!
10. The desire of ultimate self-determination. Or if you like schmaltzy big band songs, always seeking to "do it myyyy wayyyyyy."

Response #18: 

A nice reprise of current trends, paving the way for the beast and his rise no doubt. One could add to the list, but time would fail.

Your #10 in particular is what unbelief is all about, putting one's own will in place of the Will of God – following in the devil's footsteps.

Question #19:  

When we are talking about God's punishments I have a question about this.

2nd Samuel 24:1-17: is talking about how God kills 70000 people because of David's sin. (Probably pride)

Why God kill innocents people? I think it's a hard question so you probably don't know enough to answer.

Response #19: 

What makes you think they were innocent?

In the first place, no one is innocent (we are all damned until saved through Jesus Christ).

In the second place, everything God does is good and right and planned in detail from before creation began. It's just that we don't know all the facts. God knows all the facts, and when we (believers) see Him face to face we too will "know even as we are known" (1Cor.13:12). Until then, everything that happens or we hear about that is "hard to understand" is a test of faith. It's important that we have these because they separate the sheep from the goats in the first place (believers vs. unbelievers) and the believers who will be rewarded from those who won't (for failing to grow in their trust for the Lord). So trust the Lord!

LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Psalm 84:12 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

There's a verse in the bible (1 Thessalonians 2:18) where Paul says that he was hindered by Satan. Why would God allow the apostle Paul to be hindered by the devil? I know that there are times in my life where I was certain that I was hindered by Satan, but afterwards it seems to be part of God's sovereign plan. Because being hindered by Satan actually yielded results like bearing fruits of the Spirit had it not happened. I don't know if this was why God allowed Satan to hinder Paul or not. I often heard preachers say that God Himself is absolutely sovereign in all things that even Satan, unknowingly or not, is used in God's plan. Would Romans 8:28 refer to something like this?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #20: 

If I you were trying to get through a door and I stood in your way (e.g., to be funny), that would "hinder you", would it not? But we can imagine God allowing me to do so, even though I would be making a bad joke at your expense, and even though you are a find upstanding Christian trying to go about your Christian business.

The plan of God is perfect. It takes into account absolutely everything (Prov.16:4). But you don't have to look far in scripture to find all manner of believers being poorly treated by the world (cf. Heb.11:32.40), and therefore by the present ruler of the world (1Pet.5:8). Ever since the serpent tempted Eve (through being demon possessed) and Cain murdered Abel (undoubtedly influenced by the devil to do so), Satan has been inspiring and directing the "hindering" of the people of God. "In this world we have tribulation" (Jn.16:33), but Jesus has overcome the world. God is bigger and smarter and more merciful than any of the hindrances we face, regardless of whether or not they are actually brought on by the efforts of the evil one and his unseen forces. So I can tell you that while Paul was occasionally "hindered" and we all are at times, even when (or maybe especially when) we are attempting to do what God wants us to do, nevertheless the plan of God is never stopped from carrying things out in the perfect way. So you are "right on the money" when you say that in the end all this "actually yielded results like bearing fruit of the Spirit" which otherwise would not have happened. After all, the exodus would not be as miraculous as it was had there been no devil-inspired Pharaoh to oppose Moses and the children of Israel. And that is a good lesson for us. We see the Israelites of that time getting frustrated by all the "hindrance" and often flagging in their faith. But God had it all planned out from front to back before He even appeared to Moses in the burning bush – and had from before creation. Through God's overcoming of all such "hindrances", He is glorified – and we see His glory all the more clearly as a result. None of which would happen if life were one easy walk in the park to Zion – which it is not. Just ask Paul (1Cor.4:8-13; 2Cor.4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:16-33; Phil.3:7-11).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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