Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Salvation, the Gospel, and Unbelief III

Word RTF

Question #1: 

Can you explain this verse?

“to those who say, ‘Let God hurry;
let him hasten his work
so we may see it.
The plan of the Holy One of Israel—
let it approach, let it come into view,
so we may know it.’ ” (Isaiah 5:19)

Response #1: 

This is what unbelievers say when they aren't really willing to believe but want to put down believers – along the lines of what our Lord's brothers said to Him (Jn.7:3-5).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

What is the most effective way to minister to the lost in the hope that they get saved? I used to pass out tracts, but I never would know if it had any impact on those who read it. Most of the tracts are simply about the same message, and that's Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. This concerns me a lot because my mother isn't saved yet, and whenever I try to explain the bible to her, she gets defensive. I really want the lost to be saved in this corrupt world, I just don't know how to do it effectively, especially with bible tracts. What are your thoughts on this?

God Bless,

Response #2: 

Rather than there being "one way" when it comes to personal evangelism, I would say that there are as many correct approaches as there are Christians. Unfortunately, of course, this does not keep many from incorrect approaches, and one reason for the flourishing of these wrong ways is the baneful influence of the church-visible in its traditions and "normal" ways of doing things. So while I don't have anything against handing out tracts per se, in my experience, observation and reading of the Bible, it seems to me that a simple conversation with an unbeliever on the part of someone they know or someone to whom they show interest in hearing the truth is going to be far more effective than handing out tracts to strangers. Not to say that the latter is necessarily wrong, but it is wrong to think of this as "the right way" as opposed to some other particular way of sharing Christ that some other Christians in their own lives ministries have been guided to pursue by the Spirit.

We are all gifted and we are all given particular ministries in this life . . . if we persevere in growth to get to the point where the Lord puts us into service. All Christians share the responsibility and the privilege of sharing the Word of salvation in Jesus Christ, but some are better at it than others, and some are given more opportunities for it than others. The key thing to remember that is that this is about Jesus Christ who wants all to be saved and also about the other person who has to decide whether or not to respond to that great Gift. It is NOT about us. So our feelings have nothing to do with it. In other words, we should not feel guilty or bad that others do not come to Christ; but we should be ready to help if they are willing. And we should not feel proud or justified if and when we have the opportunity to share the gospel; this was their choice, paid for by Jesus Christ (we were just instruments in the process).

Here are some links to where this is further discussed at Ichthys:

Evangelism in Principle and Practice I

Evangelism in Principle and Practice II

Gift of Evangelism

Witnessing: Cults and Christianity II

Witnessing: Cults and Christianity I

Apostles and Evangelism

Witnessing to family

Witnessing to Mormons

Witnessing to Muslims

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

A friend of mine told me about his soul-witnessing efforts. He said that there are a lot of Christians that regularly would go door to door to soul win in the poorer areas of the city. They would ask the question "If you died today are you 100% sure you are on your way to heaven?" and they were very receptive to the question, very thoughtful of it and I was able to give the gospel, now in the richer areas of the city they would ask the EXACT SAME QUESTION and it was not received well at all! He got chewed out quite a few times and it was slightly unsettling since he had never had that reaction before.

Is there another way believers should begin going into the gospel or continue on this way? Or is it our job, if you will, is to simply present the Gospel, not try to convince people of anything. We present the Gospel and God does the rest. The 123 repeat after me crowd prayers thinks that it is their responsibility to convince people to repeat a prayer. If a person will repeat the prayer they are saved. (so they say) I have heard supposed soul winners get all discouraged when they talk to a person at the door, but the person will not repeat the prayer. To me...this discouragement is as much vanity and pride on the part of the soul winner as it is when someone will repeat the prayer. There is nowhere in the Bible that we are told to get people to say a made up prayer, this is a device of man, not Bible instruction. So, right or wrong, when I hear this particular phrase I categorize the person that said it as being in the "easy believism crowd." This upsets me because it leads to many of false conversions. What is the correct way to minister the Gospel to the lost?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #3: 

Sharing Jesus Christ is both a personal responsibility for Christians and also a special gift (evangelist) which some but not all are given by the Spirit. How to evangelize? For one thing, when I say "personal responsibility" I do not mean that it is something we need to be engaging in weird behavior to satisfy. The JWs go door to door to be saved themselves (in a religion of works); if a Christian wants to go door to door to spread the gospel, well, it strikes me as a problematic thing to do for many reasons, but each of us is called to his/her own ministry. If it is of God, I have no problem with it of course; but in my observation and experience a great deal of such forced sharing of the gospel is done for the wrong reasons (at least in part) and is bound to be ineffective. In fact, if it only provokes rude reactions (such as casting pearls before swine), then a wise Christian ought to ask him/herself what they think they are doing.

If you are a mature believer with a good understanding of the gospel, God is very capable of putting someone He wants to hear the good news directly in your path. But if someone is not mature and is engaged in weird behavior for the sake of trying to please some other immature believer who is all het up about this sort of thing, it would be surprising if God were to honor the activity overly. But I do say along with Paul " whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice" (Phil.1:18 NKJV) – although I personally am not going to be preaching Christ from false motives or in ways I consider weird as I don't think it is a very good witness.

Here are some pertinent links I strongly suggest you read on this:

Evangelism in Principle and Practice I

Evangelism in Principle and Practice II

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Bob,

How do I explain Romans 2:9 - 10 to another believer who says that people who experience God’s nature are believers when God judges their secrets. In other words my friend says that people who have never heard the word but who “appreciate” creation and “worship” God through that same creation will be saved. Mu understanding is that there is no way to salvation except through Christ. So a person in the jungles of Borneo who has never heard the scriptures, cannot be of the elect as they have never accepted Christ’s atoning death. My friend says God’s grace is infinite and we cannot say who will be saved (I agree it is not for us to say who may or may not be ultimately saved). I say, if one does not accept that Christ’s death atoned for our sins and is the only way to be reconciled to God, we are doomed to an eternity in hell. I certainly don’t want to be dogmatic and unyielding but it seems to me as though everyone is trying to water down the doctrine" faith alone in Christ alone”. PLEASE feel free to correct me if you think necessary. You know how much I value your opinion and I don’t want to go around sending a message of hellfire but people are so wishy-washy on the subject.

Praying for your situation Bob.


Response #4: 

This is a very common sort of quibble, so I have had occasion to write about the issue in the past from a variety of points of view. I'll give you some links below. In a nutshell, you are absolutely correct. Salvation has always been the same: accepting God's Substitute for sin in place of one's own works and trusting Him for forgiveness and one's own eternal life as a result. In the Old Testament, this Substitute was seen through shadows in the animal sacrifices of family priesthoods and then in the Law; today we look back at the cross with a clear view of the reality of Jesus Christ having paid the entire penalty for our sins (i.e., His spiritual death; see the link). 

The "problem" lurking behind the sorts of "solutions" offered by your friend and many others is a feeling that since God cannot be unfair or unjust, therefore He must provide the aborigine in the jungle some secondary means of salvation and a way to avoid damnation. But this supposition of a "problem" is really where the problem with such reasoning lies. God is MUCH bigger than all that and much wiser too. And God is so wise that He has already ordained every single event in the history of the world – including what said aborigine has for lunch today, including what mosquito bit him and when, including the behavior of every quark that made up ever atom that made up every cell in his body. God "knew him" before He created him, and He loved him with a perfect love as He loves us all. Failure to respond to the love that is inherent in being given "life and breath and all things" by a perfect Creator (Acts 17:25), failure to use the image of God, the ability to choose, so as to "seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27) is what results in condemnation – NOT lack of opportunity to hear the Word (which then must be compensated for by some spurious work-around that turns the gospel upside down).

The key is the knowledge and wisdom of God. He puts us where we fit best – to have maximum opportunity to hear the truth and respond to it. Clearly, opportunity is not everything – otherwise everyone in this country would be saved (whereas only a few are). Clearly also, lack of opportunity in the way we finite humans who know little compared to God define it is no hindrance to the One who made and sustains the universe. Does someone indeed not have the opportunity to be saved? God can provide it without any trouble. Further, since He is perfect as well as all powerful, He always has in perfect faithfulness and always will provide it – provided, that is, the person really does want Him. And He knows the hearts of all, even before birth. Could He send and angel? Yes. Could He send a missionary? Yes. Could He arrange for the person in question to take a journey that resulted in contact with a believer who would share the truth with him? Yes. And so many other possibilities we cannot even imagine in the infinite mind and ability of God. Has He in fact provided the gospel for everyone who has ever been willing to receive it and be saved? YES! That is really all we need to know. Christ died for all, and He died for all that all might be saved. He did not do so so that some might perish because of a technicality or logistical failure. My God is MUCH bigger than that.

When we witness the last judgment, the secrets and intents of every unbelieving heart will be laid bare, and it will be made clear that no one is going to hell because they "didn't hear" or "didn't know". We all know we will die; we all know we are sinners; we all know there is a perfect God and that absent some sort of intervention on His part we have no means to stand before Him. That is the eternity that He has placed in the hearts of all mankind (Eccl.3:11); what we do about it is an individual choice, and anyone who has responded – or has ever wished to respond – in an appropriate humble way has been given the information necessary to do so. Whether being enslaved by raiders and brought to a place where there was the knowledge of the truth (analogous to Joseph being taken to Egypt for a good purpose); whether someone being captured and taken to the remote location we are imagining (as was the case with the Jewish girl whose testimony resulted in Naaman's salvation); or through so many other things we might imagine (as in Jonah coming from the belly of a whale to evangelize Nineveh) . . . and yet never come to the end of the possibilities that the Lord has at His disposal – and He has intertwined them all perfectly into the plan of God. In each and every case the truth is the same: all who wish to be saved have always had the opportunity to be saved, without exception. It's a question, as I say, of just how "big" one's God is. My God is big enough to have this "problem" completely in hand – more than big enough, because we know for a fact that Christ died for that aborigine's sins, each and every one of them.

Here are those links:

Those who've never heard?

What is the Eternal Future of those who Lived before Christ?

Are Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel Lost?

God knows all things.

God's justice "bigger" than often imagined.

Natural Revelation

Natural Revelation and Accountability (in BB 4B)

Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

If I lived in Noah’s time and I heard him preach, I would ask him “how do we know that God promised a flood?” Noah was the only person who heard this promise. Nobody else did. Westboro Baptist Church promises that God told them that only they and 144,000 Jews will be saved… nobody else received that revelation. How do we know they’re right? And yes, they do cite Noah as precedent.


Response #5: 

This is an argument that the RC church also uses all the time: "there are so many Protestant interpretations, they must all be wrong and the pope right".

But the solid foundation of God (i.e., that each of us lays down in the heart; cf. 1Cor.3:10-11) stands firm with this seal [of approval]: "The Lord knows those who [truly] belong to Him" (cf. Num.16:5), and "Let everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord stand clear of unrighteousness".
2nd Timothy 2:19

God knows us and we KNOW we belong to Him; and we KNOW the truth is the truth. How? Through the Spirit He has given to dwell within us. That is also how unbelievers know that the truth has been presented to them, not through an empirically demonstrable process but through an unerring and supernatural one: the witness of the Spirit. That is why the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is the only unpardonable sin – the sin of rejecting the Spirit's witness to Christ. This is the sin that the antediluvian generation committed in regard to the testimony of Noah, the "preacher of righteousness" (2Pet.2:5). The message was to avoid damnation through faith in God's salvation by means of His coming Substitute (evident in every animal sacrifice); the flood merely hastened the process for those of that generation who had rejected Noah's testimony.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

The problem is that the RCC is wrong. For instance, there is no possible interpretation of the Bible such that you can derive praying to a statue of a woman or praying for the dead and to the dead as doctrine. The problem is not that the RCC interprets the Bible. The problem is not even that the RCC interprets the Bible poorly. The problem is that the RCC contradicts the Bible, and it is totally trivial to see whether or not a person contradicts one of their own sources. As in, so trivial that I was able to see it when I was twelve and they taught the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism in school.

Of course Protestants are going to disagree. All authors, including the authors of the Bible, use words and deriving the correct interpretation of words is contingent upon the effort, education, ability, and open-mindedness of the people interpreting. Two billion human beings will inevitably vary on effort, education, ability, and open-mindedness and therefore will come up with different interpretations. But that doesn’t mean that all interpretations are equally good, because the interpretation by the people who spent the most effort, have the most education, have the most ability, and are the most open-minded will be the correct interpretation. That I guarantee.

Why bother preaching without giving reasons to believe? Preaching just by saying “X is true because God told me so” is the same as saying nothing at all. And anybody who believed such preaching got into Heaven by accident, not because they were correct, because they would have believed anybody who says “X is true because God told me so.”

Response #6: 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 NKJV

Everyone has a hole in the heart that can only be filled by the truth, by God. Everyone understands that they are going to die. And everyone knows that they are imperfect and incapable of standing up to divine scrutiny. At least everyone knows these critical things early on in life and before they studiously "unlearn" these truths as most of the world eventually does.

Given the inevitable fact of death alone, offering eternal life would seem to me to be plenty of "reason". You can't proclaim the gospel without proclaiming the divine solution to death: our Savior Jesus Christ, with salvation coming by grace through faith in Him. That's more than reason enough to turn to the Lord and belief is no problem either since God Himself – in the person of the Holy Spirit – is making the truth of the free offer of grace perspicuously clear in the heart of every listener whenever the gospel is presented.

The problem is that most people want no part of God because they would have to acknowledge Him and His Son instead of themselves.

In Jesus our Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Good afternoon,

I found your website and looked around a bit. From the couple articles I read, you have done some tremendously in depth studies. The articles have already given me several things to consider for my own understanding.

I'm wondering if you'd be willing to help me with some very in depth questions. A bit of background: I've been studying with 2 Jehovah's Witness ladies over the last 2 years - in essence I'm trying to get them out of the cult of the Watchtower. If you've had any interaction with them, you'll understand how challenging that can be, though our King is bigger and mightier than the WT, so in reality they don't stand a chance against His Word. At the moment, we're going through their initial indoctrination book, What Does the Bible Really Teach, and as we go through I ask them numerous logical and challenging questions that might stump them or give them pause.

So, I'm way in over my head, facing questions I've never imagined people would ask, trying to make sense out of the chaos of the WT (thankfully, my Savior specializes in the underdog). If you'd be available for random and weird questions, you could really help me present thought-provoking questions to these ladies.

As an example, we are looking at their view of Jesus - Michael the archangel who became Jesus the human only (no Deity) who was recreated back as Michael (instead of a true resurrection). Your study on Angels is proving valuable, especially the part on Michael's specific responsibility as Israel's Prince and protector. If i can phrase the question well enough for them, they should have to stop and consider that a good exegesis of who the Biblical Michael is must include the parameters set within the Bible itself. However, the WT theology doesn't include these parameters in their current understanding.

So, are you up for helping a Christian out as she tries to snatch these ladies from the fire?

Thanks for sharing your studies online! You are already helping reach the lost. May God put lots of gems in your crown for your sacrifices and your work!

In Grace,

Response #7:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for your positive comments about the site.

JWs are a "tough nut", but I suppose that is the case with anyone in any group of unbelievers trying to work their way into heaven (that is the basic approach of most pseudo-Christian groups and religions). We may think of Paul before his conversion. Whenever anyone is convinced they don't need God's righteousness which only comes by grace through faith but are instead trying to build up their own righteousness and blasphemously offer that stinking mess to God, the truth has been turned on its head. Also, anyone doing this has already invested SO MUCH in what is false that it is wrenching thing to let go of it – not just a matter of seeing that one's opinion was incorrect through accepting logical proof. It's more like an alcoholic or drug addict giving up their booze or habit "cold turkey" – and in some ways worse since it's not a matter of doing something the person realizes on some level is bad and destructive but of being forced to admit that everything one has based one's life on for a long time has been wrong.

Given the above, while I'm very happy to help, and very happy to answer any specific questions you may wish to ask, I do have to say again that this is not just a matter of "information". People involved in any worldly system that rejects the truth have made many firm choices already and confirmed those choices over what may well be a long period of time. Changing will require the "choice of choices". Blessedly, if there is a spark of genuine desire to know the actual truth, the Holy Spirit will make that truth clear to them when the truth is presented. But there has to be a desire for this miracle to happen. We are all here in this world to choose, and people zealously involved in works-religions are not there by accident but by choice – the wrong choice, to be sure, but choice none the less. All manner of "nice people" are going to end up in hell. Why? Because in their arrogance they could not bring themselves to accept the truth that they needed God and needed the sacrifice of His Son, the Gift, that only He could provide. Instead, some of them in their arrogance (as in the case of this group) want to recreate God as someone who needs them, needs their effort, needs their work – which is just a hop, skip and a jump from replacing God with themselves (as in the case of the JWs, that is what their religion essentially teaches).

Another thing I should point out is that when arguing with these people the game is not being played on an level field. In fact, to use a sports analogy, the goal on either end is your goal: they alone can score; you can only prevent them from scoring on you . . . temporarily maybe if you are very good. Why? Because they do not actually respect the Bible as the truth and as the actual Word of God no matter how much lip service they may pay it. For that reason, you cannot "prove to them" that they are wrong; you can only demonstrate from time to time that their PRESENT arguments may be somewhat faulty, and that will only cause them to go back and "work on their game" and find other arguments and excuses to answer your objections. You see, they believe their false doctrine; the Bible is merely an instrument to be used to recruit and refute people who have some respect for the Bible (which they in truth do not).

So I commend your heart, but I encourage you also to realize that you are engaging in an unequal fight, the kind of spiritual fight that requires a deep faith in the truth and a deep understanding and personal spiritual maturity to be able to engage in it without personal spiritual peril. So if you are going to continue with this exercise, let me give you two pieces of advice, first, to encourage you make your personal spiritual growth through focusing on the truth of the Word of God as taught by a good teaching ministry a top priority (Ichthys is one such, but certainly not the only one; I also often recommend "Bible Academy" at the link); only growing believers with a depth of spiritual maturity can withstand the tricks and emotional pressures that can be brought to bear by groups such as these over a long period of time.

Secondly, the gospel is the only truth that these individual have the capacity to receive. That is true of all unbelievers. Now an unbeliever can study "the doctrine of the Trinity" for example in an academic way so as to be able to "ace" a multiple choice test on it, but this would be knowledge only, not the "full knowledge" of scripture which believers have who have committed such truths to their hearts through faith, through believing them (see the link: "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth"). When they do hear the gospel from you, they will either accept . . . or perforce reject it. The latter choice is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness (unless and until they do accept the truth). Occasionally such people do change, but, honestly, it usually takes the Lord getting their attention in some dramatic way first – such as His appearance to Saul on the road to Damascus. For those who wouldn't change even if they did have such an epiphany (or other supernatural intervention) these are usually not forthcoming. But in my experience and observation, even the perfect riposte based on scripture which obviously refutes their position when considered fairly by any logically thinking person is probably "not going to do it". They are not thinking logically; they are thinking strategically. They are not in your house to be saved but to "save you" and thus save themselves through their works.

Moreover, since every cult member of whatever cult always has sliver in the brain bothering them – because on some deep level they appreciate that what they are selling is not the truth since it is in fact not true – their zeal for converting those who are clearly solid believers of the truth is even more fiery. Why? Because if they can convert you, it helps to suppress and even to justify the feeling of dis-ease they have about the lies to which they have committed themselves. Even Satan knows that his lies are lies – on some deep level. But the process of hardening the heart allows all enemies of the truth to proceed in their thinking as if the truth were the lie and vice versa. Just as Satan wants to dethrone God, so there is no better way for all cultists to succeed than to put the truth entirely to death and replace it with their lie. For them that is victory, just as Satan insanely cherishes the idea of victory through the same procedure.

There is a lot at Ichthys about all of these subjects (and we have broached many of them here); I will give you a few links, and I will also put a prayer request up on the site for you. Please be careful, and please remember what our Lord told us about sharing the truth, because it is important to keep in mind, especially when our intentions are good:

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
Matthew 7:6 NKJV

You are in the middle of some very serious spiritual warfare here, and caution as well as careful attention to your own personal spiritual growth are highly recommended.

Here are those links:

Spiritual Warfare V

Spiritual Warfare IV

Spiritual Warfare III

Spiritual Warfare II

Spiritual Warfare

And also very important:  "Read your Bible" (see in particular the section "cult characteristics")

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8: 


Thank you. Thank you for understanding.

Thank you for caring about my spiritual well being. Thank you for your warnings and for your suggestions. It's a rare thing to find someone who understands the WT/JW mindset AND who's willing to help. Your prayers are so welcome and appreciated!!

This has indeed been a demanding and difficult experience. If I can share with you just a little...I didn't set out to study with them. Like most people, I tried to nicely set them on their way. But when I looked online for a way to quickly dismiss them, I read someone's words that struck my heart. It was something to the effect of, Someone who claims to love God, wants to study the Bible with you, is coming to your door. What more does a lost soul need to do to get you to share His Truth with them? So, I prayed and decided that as long as they would come to my door, I'd share God's Truth with them to the best of my ability.

I spent the first year reacting to their teachings by providing them (what I think are) well laid out Biblical truths. Though I've been a Christian for around 25 years, I was faced with questions I'd never considered. At some point the ladies said to me, "We've never met anyone who can defend their beliefs like you." I was astounded...both of them have been JWs since their preteen years, around 30 years, and they'd never met a Christian willing to defend God's Truth. Well, I was spurred on more. The more I studied (obviously) the more I understood God's Word. I was also able to see God using my talents and skills of research, writing, and debate to stand against the lies of the WT. I thought at one point...I am exactly the right person for this job!

Just after the first year, they started emphasizing their desire to study their initial book. I searched and found a "Response to What Does the Bible Really Teach" and contacted the author, Wilbur Lingle. He has had over 40 years studying with JWs, Mormons, and Muslims. Just after that contact, the ladies essentially gave me an ultimatum that I needed to study the book with them or they couldn't study with me anymore. So, I've been following the author's guidance on how to approach this study - emphasizing the social aspect of the meetings which seems to shake the WT teaching that all non-JWs are wretched satanic heathens. The other major point the author has found effective is by asking questions the JWs aren't prepared for, like a flanking maneuver.

Studying with them is, as you said, inverted. Studying the Bible with them as I might with anyone proved ineffective because they deflected those truths sometimes easily and other times quite creatively. However, by asking them questions they haven't prepared for (that is, that the WT hasn't prepared them for) and by pressing certain points, I can see some ground gained. I can see the value in Wilbur's method and now find myself enjoying the moments when they can't answer the questions presented and write it down to look into later.

For my spiritual protection, this journey has been such a blessing. From the beginning I've prayed fervently for their souls. I know the WT is much bigger than me, they are out trained, they out number me (though one of them has come to meetings alone several times...a good sign, I hope), out memorized....they've got me out everything except they don't have God on their side. So, like Gideon or Elijah facing insurmountable odds, I know that if these ladies are to step out of their cult, it will only be God's doing. Right now, my goal is only to get them to see the lies of the WT. Based on my research and the testimonies of the JWs who have left, once they start to see the lies the WT weeds will lose their grip. That's when God's powerful and holy Light will be able to penetrate the darkness in their minds and souls. All I know is if I am literally the only one holding the light up to their darkness, I can't bow out. I arm myself with God's armor so I can stand through the battle the Lord is fighting for them. I see His Word differently...I see Jesus as Yahweh of the OT, I see Jesus throughout the OT, I see Jesus as the Lord of Hosts; His Word is more amazing and more astounding than ever. I am more captivated by my King and more amazed at His Grace and His Grandeur. My faith is resting in His Grace...as the AMP version defines faith: "the leaning of your entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness". I have seen God keep me from a deployment (I'm an Army civilian), which allowed me to continue these studies with the ladies. I have seen Him move in amazing ways throughout this journey.

I agree with you that winning an argument will not win their souls. This experience has taught me very clearly that all the evidence points to satan's victory - I still recall one of the ladies who boasted during our conversation "Oh, that's good. I'm going to use that in the future" as she proceeded to write down something I had said that she turned to her favor. I am aware of my own inclination to "win" arguments, and I pray more. During our meetings I pray He will keep my attitude subdued so He can speak through me. The good thing with Wilbur's method is the lack of confrontation. I'm not approaching the conversations as Me vs. Them. The approach is one of inquiry. As you are well aware, JWs are discouraged from independent thinking and are often so busy they simply don't have time to meditate on the teachings they are forced to memorize. The questions Wilbur laid out, and the additional ones I've come up with, are designed not necessarily to get an actual answer. They are designed to instigate thought, which is why when they can't answer a question and have to research the answer, it's a win for God. I seek ways to flank them or surprise them with my questions.

I have learned in this experience that God is winning in the background. Regardless of what I see in their faces, and what they say, God's victory is certain. I have no doubt that God will be victorious with these ladies, even if I never see them leave, He will win these two from satan's grasp.

So your prayers are precious to me. Fighting with me in this battle is more than I imagined you would offer. I am thankful for finding your site and look forward to seeing God use your efforts to win the souls of these 2 ladies!!

One of them seems to be more actually in love with Jesus and much less stable or less convinced as a JW. When we discussed who is her Mediator (WT teaches Jesus is mediator only for the 144K), and I asked her who her Mediator was if He only mediates for the 144K, all she could say was, "All I know is Jesus is my mediator." So, in spite of WT teachings, she can still see truth (that was the point that started allowing Light to shine in for several other JWs who've left and written books on how to reach out to JWs). Her adult daughter has never been baptized as a JW, which I KNOW has had to give her pause. Her daughter is at university studying languages. Though her daughter complies with several of the requirements, like performing studies and such, she still hasn't converted. Her husband is pretty docile but very kind (I don't have a lot of interaction with their husbands). The other one, on the other hand, is much more convinced of the WT's teachings. She said of herself she is naturally inclined to philosophy though she doesn't like it in general. I am pretty sure she reads JW apologists based on some of the arguments she's presented. She is the one who's met me alone a few times. She seems to lead the meetings and in a way may be mentoring the other. She has 2 young boys with whom my daughter plays when they accompany her. Her husband is quiet but clearly the man of the house. The ladies are both strong minded like me, so it's always entertaining to discuss things with them.

One last thing...we are currently looking at their understanding of Jesus/Michael. As such, we obviously touched on the subject of the Trinity. When the one said "the Bible doesn't teach it, it isn't in there anywhere", I said, "oh, but it is. I can write it out for you if you'd like." She said, sure. you can bring it next week. I replied, "Hahahaha. No. That will take a while to write out for you. Perhaps when we finish the book (15 chapters from now...and it's taken a year to get through 4 chapters)". She looked at me in shock. Well, I've never had to write out why I believe in the Triune Godhead before because everyone I've met either doesn't believe in Yahweh or believes in the Triune Godhead. So, I'm in the process of writing it down. But the more I study it, the more I find! So far I have 65 pages of scripture and comparative studies, like all the times Yahweh says "I" or "Me" or "My" in the OT and yet the same verses are applied to Christ or that He applied to Himself. Ex. Micah 5:2 the way is "prepared for Me (Yahweh)", but in the gospels the way is prepared for Jesus. It's this kind of study that has brought me closer to My Savior, as I'm sure has happened to you.

Well, thank you for your time and your ear. Thank you for your prayers. I may be a warrior (as a friend of mine calls me), but I definitely need prayers and support from the Children of the King.

Oh, quick. I wanted to reassure you, Bob. The only thing the JWs have convinced me of is the value in using Yahweh or even YHWH rather than LORD throughout the OT.

Ok, they've also shown me one other thing. The WT is a well built house built on sand, in Venice. It keeps sinking below and adding more floors on the top. :)

May Yahweh bless you abundantly. Blessings to you!

In Grace,

Response #8: 

Thanks for your explanation. I will try to remember to keep these two along with you in my prayers (and have added these two to our prayer list as well as yourself).

It sounds as if you know what you are doing. I'm impressed by your persistence and your confidence. Truly, nothing is impossible for the Lord . . . for those who genuinely believe.

We are all given personal ministries. But few ever get around to engaging in them in our lukewarm era of Laodicea (at the link). It seems that you are the blessed exception. Good for you!

There is a lot at Ichthys about the Trinity and about the deity of Christ, as well as accounts of conversations with others who have fought similar fights. I will give you a few links here but keep in mind that there is a lot more to discover on the site:

Bible Basics 1:  Theology: "II. The Persons of God: The Trinity"

Christology Questions VIII: The Deity, Humanity and Life of Christ

Jesus Christ in the Old Testament (Christophany: Gen.3:8).

Christology Questions VI: Christophany, Deity and the Spiritual Death of Christ

Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?

Jesus Christ is Divine (in BB 4A: Christology)

Jesus is God.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

The WT Bible

The "New World" JW Bible

John 1:1 NWT translation

On "Yahweh" and the divine name, I have no problem with this, but I'm always quick to point out that in the New Testament all of the apostles and more to the point our Lord use the Greek rather than the Hebrew words for "God" and "Lord" – and all could easily have used the Hebrew (there are plenty of other transliterations in the Greek NT).

There is no "magic" in the form of the Name; there is only power in what the Name means for those who actually have faith in Him.

Thanks for your service too!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 


Thank you for the links. I'm a sponge for useful information!

I agree there is nothing magic about using God's Names and I've pointed out to the ladies how Jesus never even pronounced God's Name (He would have been speaking in the 3rd person about Himself!). For me, it's more about being able to actually read the tetragrammaton or the closest translation within the Bible. Personally I'd really like to see more of the raw translation than the finished product. Example, Isa 9:6 His name shall be "one-marvelous one-counselling El/God/Power masterful father-of-future chief-of well-being" versus the common translation. I'm loving more and more the raw translation! I've actually started learning Hebrew so that I can eventually read the OT in its original language. Learning the meaning of God's Names - El Elyon, Yahweh Yirah (I probably spelled that wrong)...That's what I want to read. I know I'm weird, but it love that unaltered access to knowing Him. I love having to search and dig in order to understand what the words mean. He takes my breath away as I discover the Beauty of Him. That's why I like the idea of using Yahweh or YHWH in the text of the OT, not because of any JW reasoning. Although, I also appreciate the Messianic Jewish practice of NOT writing some of His names ex. G_d out of respect. Thus by at least using YHWH we aren't altering the text, but we're also not overstepping the bounds of respect because we're simply writing what He wrote.

That's my soap box. I look forward to checking out the links you've provided. I can't express how thankful I am when I find someone who really understands the challenges of studying with a cult member. Most people - even other Christians - just look at me like I'm crazy or wasting my time. They don't get it. It baffles me because they desperately need Jesus!! If we don't speak to them as Paul spoke to the Athenians - reaching them at their level, how will they ever hear the Good News?

Grateful and blessed,

Response #9: 

You're certainly welcome!

I admire your faith and your persistence in ministry. I will be praying for all your good hard work for the Lord to be rewarded.

Do feel free to write me back any time.

Your fellow worker in the Lord's vineyard.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

I have always been confused by the thought that if God loves everyone why does he go against gays or people who liked both sexes?

So I was told that if a person does not know who the Savior is shall go to hell. But if they did not know of him why should he/she be bound to hell?

Response #10: 

Good to make your acquaintance.

Since your questions are related, I'll answer them in one email.

First, God does love everyone. God IS love. God gives everyone life. Without Him, we wouldn't exist. And more than that, much more than that, Jesus Christ died for the sins of every single person. Without the gift of the cross, without the Gift of Christ, no one could be saved and all would be doomed to hell. But because Christ did die for our sins, the door of life eternal is open to everyone regardless of what we have done. All that is required is to walk through that door, to not say "No!" to the gift of life eternal in Jesus Christ, to put our faith and trust in Him for salvation. If we do so, if we do choose to believe in Jesus Christ, then we are saved regardless of what we have done in the past. We are all sinners and we are all in need of God's grace. You can't find a person in this world whom the Bible does not reproach for something – and most of us for many things (cf. 1Jn.1:5-10). But we who believe have been washed clean by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So I urge you not to let considerations like this one throw you off from the truth: whoever you are and whatever you have done, salvation is yours free of charge - - because Christ became a human being and paid for your sins (please see the link: "Salvation: God's Free Gift").

As to knowing or hearing about the Savior, trust me, God knows more than we do. In fact He knows everything that can be known. In fact He has decreed everything that is happening – having taken into account all we choose to do before He created time and space. His knowledge is total. And so is His wisdom. There has never been a person who was not saved because of lack of information. God is perfectly capable of providing the information necessary to be saved and always does so . . . to those who want it. But for those who don't want it, for those who reject Him and His Son – as most of the human race has done ever since the expulsion from Eden – He is certainly not under any obligation to provide the truth just so it can be hurled back in His face. We are told not to throw pearls before swine (Matt.7:6), and that principle certainly applies here. This excuse is one which many unbelievers make, namely, "others didn't hear so You are not fair, God, so I get to go to heaven even though I rejected Your Son". This is a ridiculous way of thinking, but it is widespread. As I always tell such people, "even if this nonsense were true, it doesn't apply to you because you HAVE heard!" At the last judgment, God will let everyone know that all such defenses are mere spiders' webs. The Lord is absolutely fair. As the perfect God, He could not be otherwise. We are the ones who fail to understand, and usually because we are not willing to do so. There is a great deal more about all this at the link: "God's Plan to Save You".

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2nd Corinthians 5:20-21 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Thank you so much – I understand more on those two questions.

Response #11: 

You're most welcome,

Happy to be able to help.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hello Professor,

I hope you have had a good week my friend. Thank you for your reply, it is always good to hear what a teacher of the Word has to say.

My med course won’t be starting until after May next year, I’ve been waiting a long time for this course so a few more months isn’t going to bother me. I had my mother come visit me in Scotland last week for a few days, it was nice to have a company, and for the first time we actually spoke about believing in Jesus Christ. I’ve always been wanting to talk about our Saviour to my family but for some reason I have always found it hard to do so, mainly because I feel that I don’t have the knowledge to answer all their questions. The conversation with my mother started with her asking me whether I read the Bible, after a few polar questions from her side I decided it was my turn and I asked her whether she did believe or not. The answer I got from her was ‘yes I do believe that Jesus Christ existed but I don’t believe in miracles’. She started saying that all miracles were just natural occurrences but I hit back with the question ‘The conception of Jesus Christ, what do you think of that miracle?’. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a clear response which shows her unbelief.

Most questions I got asked I found challenging to answer, if my brother was the person asking these questions I could easily respond back knowing that he would understand but because my mother does not believe I was certain she could not understand what I was talking about.

I know that first of all she would have to believe in Jesus Christ if there was any chance of us having a proper conversation, her heart was just too hardened. Until she accepts Jesus Christ I can’t do much apart from asking our Lord’s help.

Is it wrong to encourage someone to read their Bible and learn about the Word to the point where you are telling them that we are going to sit down together and read? I know it has to be the person's choice to choose Jesus Christ but in my own experience if I did not have my brother I would likely be spiritually dead. How do we know if we can do more to help others to learn about the Word or when enough is enough, and we have to leave it in the Lord’s hands?

I’m sure you have had many similar experiences and I look forward to hearing about them.

In our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Response #12: 

Great to hear from you, my friend. Happy to hear that you have had a chance to spend some time with your mom. It is always more difficult to speak of spiritual matters with those nearest and dearest it seems, especially when they do not reciprocate the same faith or level of enthusiasm. That is something I and most of my close friends who've talked about this have noticed many times. The fact that you are trying says very good things about your love for the Lord . . . and also for your family.

In terms of methodology of sharing Jesus Christ, there is no right or wrong way. Every minister's experience is different because every ministry is different. We see in Acts the enthusiasm of so many to whom the apostles ministered – so that sharing was simply a matter in many cases of telling what one knew of the truth to those eager for it. But think of our Lord's ministry and how different that was. How few to whom He ministered were hungry for the truth. He deliberately taught in a parable-fashion so as to give them as much of the truth as they could stand without them reacting violently against Him.

So the audience is in fact key, and not altering our approach depending upon whom it is we are talking to would be a grave mistake as any good teacher knows: everyone is different and every class is different.

You may not know your mother perfectly but it is a sure bet that you know her better than most other people on the planet. So you have to trust the Spirit and your own judgment as the Spirit illuminates it to do what can be done in cases like this without making the mistake of going to extremes one way or the other, i.e., of being so careful that nothing is said, or of being so aggressive that nothing is received of what is said.

And I think you are absolutely right in trying to keep the issue that of salvation and life eternal in Jesus Christ rather than getting sucked into discussions about points of theology that cannot really have any deep meaning until a person commits him/herself to Christ.

I wasn't there, but from what you have shared with me it sounds as if you did the best possible job you could have done under the circumstances. We can certainly pray – and I promise to say a prayer for your mom. Some people turn on a dime to accept the Lord; others take their time in their change of attitude. With two such wonderful witnesses as your brother and yourself, I would not want to bet against your mother responding to the truth eventually.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Greetings Professor,

Many thanks for your email and encouraging words. How have you been my friend?

I’d like to share a screenshot (see below) with you that I received today from my brother, the screenshot is of a message my mum sent to him. With the help of our prayers it seems like my mum is willing to take the first step towards salvation.

After seeing this message, I am now eager to go home this Christmas and have another talk with my mum, and this time with my brother also being beside us. Like you mentioned in your previous email, it is always challenging to talk about the Word to those who we call family and I think if we are able to this (starting with our mum) then we will find it easier to do so with anyone else.

John 6:28-29: Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?’’ Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Hopefully reading the Bible will open her heart to the truth. Your prayers are much appreciated my friend.

In Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Response #13: 

Yes this is wonderful news! Your brother has just shared this with me as well and sent me a synopsis of the gospel etc. he is planning to send to your mom.

I promise to keep her in my prayers, my friend, along with you and your brother of course!

Wishing you all a wonderful and spiritually productive Christmas season ahead.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Hello Professor,

I am now writing from my new place and I have no words to describe how the Lord has delivered me. Only He can do such things.

My father left today. It has been great to have him here. Thanks to him the move went very swiftly, everything has been done in a few days. But what has really moved my heart was to see his commitment to the Word of God and at the same time to see him struggle so much in his study, like a sheep without a shepherd. He is constantly reading and re-reading the books, as he finds it hard to remember the content. He has always found academic study difficult and now at the age of 56 it is even more challenging than in the past. He has read all the texts I wrote several times and he has by now read most, if not all, articles available in Polish on gotquestions.org website where some teachings can be found. They are not perfect, but many of them are at least acceptable, which is rare, and I have been explaining to him any errors I came across.

I have been guiding him ever since he opened his heart and we have been speaking about the scripture almost on a daily basis. Seeing a new believer so committed to the Lord, trying to do his best - he didn't even want to go anywhere or do anything, he wanted to spend all his available time on study - and struggling to understand the scriptures and not having the teachings needed to grow in the truth, has really moved me, Professor.

So in this new place a new chapter begins. In the past few months there has been progress, but now I can see that I need to take ministry and production to the next level. I will be hoping and praying that the Lord sends an interpreter also, if it be His will.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #14: 

I'm very happy to hear about the nice time with your dad, the pleasant move (usually moving is a horror in my experience), and your enjoyment of your new place – answers to prayer all!

It is a new chapter, but it's all the same book. You've been working hard for a long time, and the fields are white, ready for reaping. I'm confident that you will continue to build on the foundation of gold, silver and precious stones you've already amassed. We all owe it to the Lord to do so as much as we can. I'll continue to pray that He lead you into just the right direction on all these things.

p.s., thanks for sharing my "condition" with our friend – he's given me some advice / videos that have been extremely helpful (feeling some better already).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hello Professor,

As for sharing the gospel, I will hope to hear from my two friends, but I can also see how my attitude towards this changed as I have made the little progress I have made. Early after salvation there was often hesitation, fear as to how someone could react. But the more I let the truth work in me the more I can see how this translates into being like our Lord - cutting straight to truth with others.

I will of course watch over the website and let you know if there are any problems. Our other friend also mentioned to me he couldn't open it since the day before yesterday, although it has actually always worked whenever I have tried to access it.

I need to mention our other friend to you, Professor. She has responded to me just now and I wrote back immediately, as I am genuinely concerned about her. Your prayer will be greatly appreciated - first for her and then also I need wisdom to write to her what she needs to hear at this time.

It is very nice to hear that friend in Africa found our correspondence helpful at least in some way. I'm preparing my next message to him. As you know far better than me, being lukewarm has many problems, perhaps of the worst type. But zeal has its own problems too, particularly when it is not in accordance with knowledge (Romans 10:2). The most important thing is that he has shown openness of heart, that he now has access to excellent teaching thanks to your ministry - and he hasn't had that - and that we can correspond so as for him to see where some refinements in Christian walk may be needed.

How is your health?

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #15: 

Fixing the website seems to be a work in progress for my hosting company. In retrospect, I should have waited until after the new year to put this in motion (they are not even open today, of course), but there are reasons for everything. It is a bit ironic, however, that the reason I went to this trouble and expense was so that the website would remain visible and accessible and not give the appearance of having security concerns – precisely the opposite of where we are this PM. But I know the Lord will work it out. I hope you've been getting my emails. The site was apparently rejecting them for at least 24 hours, maybe longer, until I figured that out and had them make at least that change (seems to be accepting mail now and forwarding it to my other account, but I still can't get on at the server to check things out).

I can only repeat what I have said many times in many different ways. Some horses need to be spurred, some to be reined in. Too much correction for either will result in problems. We have to manage ourselves the same way, not being too easy, but also not being too hard. It's not really a matter of standards – or shouldn't be – but of practicalities. The question always is, "how can I do my best for the Lord today?" If regurgitating the past really is helpful to spur a person on, well and good . . . up to that point. But if it starts to rein the person in and retard advance, not so good.

While there are exceptionally outgoing Christians, I think most of us wrestle with the right level of just how forthcoming we ought to be in sharing the gospel. On the one hand, nothing is better than sharing Christ and "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard" (Rom.10:14 KJV). On the other hand, there is little point in casting pearls before swine, and our Lord warned us that if we persisted in doing so they might turn and trample us. Also, the over-the-top kind of evangelism I have sometimes witnessed in this country (not the least when I was at Biola / Talbot) is personally off-putting to me – how much more so to many unbelievers might it be? We don't want to muddy the waters either just for the sake of saying "we did it"; the other person's (potential, some day) salvation is much more important. So for my money, I think you have the mix just right on this one.

As for myself, these are on again, off again problems that seem to come with age. Even if a person had millions of dollars, there are some things doctors can't fix, and even with a billion dollars, if God is not it, there is no fixing it. And even if a person is broke or close to it, God can fix anything. And we all have to go through some troubles in this life just to keep us on our toes, spiritually, and for God to demonstrate His faithfulness to us. We all get whiny about our health for obvious reasons: it's hard to do all we intend to do if we are not feeling our best. But here is what Paul said:

(7) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (8) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. (9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:7-10

This is the right attitude. We all seem to fall somewhat short of it from time to time, however!

I'm keeping our friend in my prayers – it's very good of you to be looking out for her in her time of need.

And I'm very happy to hear that you are having a good Christmas visit with your family, and that things are looking up on all fronts. I wish for you some well-deserved and much needed rest, and blessed, spiritually happy and physically healthy start to the new year.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hello Professor,

It's relieving news about the website. Hopefully with time all the remaining issues can be resolved. Choosing translations in Reftagger is a nice feature, but the most important thing is that it is still there. It has made a big difference since its introduction.

I agree with you regarding the Google search box, however - given the vastness of resources on ichthys, it is an important feature and I have been using it frequently myself. You can find out how if adding the Google box is not too difficult a procedure and let me know if you encounter any problems with it. I know people who could potentially help with that and it would be good to bring it back as soon as possible. For the time being, simply performing a google search preceded by "site:ichthys.com:" returns only ichthys results, which is what is needed (no space between "site" and "ichthys.com".

I was hesitating whether to prolong my stay or not and decided to stretch it by a couple of days. The price of the return ticked on the 1st of January suddenly dropped and I took it. And now I know what the purpose of that was and why it didn't seem quite right for me to fly on Friday. We went to the library yesterday together with my dad - at a time when I would have already been gone had I not changed the ticket - and since we also rented a Bible (so as for my father to have an edition with chapter introductions which he now really needs), a conversation started with the lady who was serving us.

Professor, it was perhaps one of the best evangelical encounters I have had. The lady was initially very firm in her syncretistic views and things were not looking great. As you know, it is a lie Satan frequently employs - that there is not just one truth, that all religions have some truth and that in fact following one path is a sign of narrow-mindedness stemming from one's desire to find comfort in a certain faith - at the cost of a more intellectually challenging path of a never ending search. The conversation wasn't going well initially - and understanding the reasons for that has been a very useful evangelical exercise for my father, who will need to control his zeal in such situations - but step by step she was began to accept the truths about God's perfect holiness, our sinfulness and there being only one path to salvation - in our Lord. This conversation was worth me staying here and should she accept the gospel, it would be something truly wonderful. She did admit it herself that she has not been at peace with her views and actually began to think and research the spiritual matters again just recently. Let's hope.

I will in any case again come back from Poland with an increased awareness of the burden of shepherd's responsibility. It is marvellous how God has been multiplying the opportunities for me to share the gospel and talk about matters spiritual. On the way to the airport - with my other friend; on the plane - with one who already wrote back to me; when I landed - with the woman I told you of back in the summer and asked for prayer; at home - with my father, as you know; with my mother - who, it would seem, could have let some light through (that would be truly miraculous); with both my grandmothers (with whom my evangelistic approach was firm - both are nearing the end now and both are on their way to the lake of fire, as things stand); with my other friend, who is a believer already; with the one you've been praying for (who I don't believe is saved, but I have hopes for her and our meeting has encouraged me - I had some concerns before seeing her); with the family members who visited us (with my father we started the conversation as soon as my uncle mentioned praying the rosary); now also with the woman from library, who may have been ripe to accept the truth. We will speak about the truth with another friend whom I am yet to see before I depart. I am not an evangelist myself, but perhaps it could be a part of my ministry.

Professor, let me know how things will be going with the website and although I'm not savvy myself, I would do what is possible to relieve you of dealing with technical problems through some of the contacts I have.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #16: 

Thanks for your encouragement and support as always, my friend! And thanks for reminding me of how to do the site search without the box – I've put that code / syntax on the site where the box was for easy copy and paste. When I have time (maybe this summer), I'll see what I can't do to get the box back on the site without triggering the security alerts. Until then, the work-around above will have to do – thanks!

Thanks also for your wonderful testimony and efforts to share the Lord! I have been praying for some of these folks for a long time (while others are brand new on the list now), and it's really encouraging to hear of your courageous and loving follow-through for Jesus Christ.

Enjoy your extended time at home, my friend. I'm back to work on Tuesday – tomorrow I'm taking off for sure!

Happy new year!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hello Dr. Bob,

Thank you for your encouraging words and prayers, which are always appreciated, valued and needed. I suppose whether circumstances are favorable or not God's people need each other's support. The enemies of our souls (our sinful natures, the world, and the devil) do not take a break. Sorry to bother you again with questions.

a. May I ask what is the meaning of 2 Timothy 2:25, particularly on the phrase about God granting repentance? This is one of the proof verses which brothers of the Reformed persuasion say when they talk about predestination. That just as faith is His gift (which is not so in Eph.2:8) so is repentance in this verse.

b. Do you have links to your writings addressing the issue about showing "fruits meet for repentance" that one truly turned one's back on error? One does not honor God just by learning what is right and not rejecting erroneous beliefs; or, in our spiritual race we do not just give maximum effort to move forward but also shed unnecessary encumbering sin-weight; or, in our offense we also apply defensive measures such as confession, which could be insincere if not done with repentance; or, the analogy of suspending the taking of multivitamins until after deworming, otherwise when taken together the parasites will only be fortified (sorry,maybe this is a wrong analogy, or maybe not, such that wrong interpretation/application of truth strengthens error).

As always, sir, your thoughts are valued. No rush on this, by the way, I just think I need to be guided to be on the right track.

On the temporal side of things, a new tax law implemented especially on petroleum products this month in our country saw price increase on all consumer goods and services. This law also promised an increase in net income due to the broadened coverage of income tax exemption. But what can be observed is that consumers, employees, commuters, renters (as expected) bears the impact of the burden of tax increase which are naturally just passed on to them by the goods manufacturers, transportation/services companies. The small increase in net pay does not offset the rise of the cost of living. This just shows how futile attempts of leaders of a country to improve revenue generation. Their solution burdens the poor. To finance needed infrastructure projects that would sustain and reinforce one of the fastest growing economy in Asia (whatever that means does not improve living conditions of the poor), impose new taxes, which only burdens the poor working class, who constitute majority of the population. Fixing a problem here creates a problem there. One of many futile attempts at creating heaven on earth/utopia or something. Same old, same old. There's nothing new under the sun. Just glad to belong to a group of people whose citizenship is in heaven, who looks forward to living in a city whose builder and maker is God, who consider living for their Lord God here a privilege and a chance to show their gratitude for His gracious mercy in saving them.

I am grateful to God for having you as my Bible teacher and friend.

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Response #17:

It's always good to hear from you, my friend, and no bother at all.

In terms of 2nd Timothy 2:25, there are hundreds if not thousands of verses in the Bible which describe God as doing things for believers; that doesn't mean that believers don't have to respond. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, we are saved "by grace" (God doing the actual "doing"), "through faith" (i.e., we are responsible for responding to Him by accepting the Gift of Christ). God doesn't force anyone to repent; whenever someone turns around from a dangerous place, spiritually speaking, that is no doubt always connected to God – but always also requires their response. If a Christian goes down a dangerous and sinful road, God may (and often does) make that persons' life miserable so as to turn him/her around. That is grace. But the turning around has to come from the free will of the believer him/herself. God never takes away our free will; He does deal with us all in the most loving and patient way, the way best designed to achieve the most blessed results. The fact that so few are saved and that so few who are saved ever respond in a truly godly way only serves to show the fact of free will and its resilience – as well as the depths of darkness in the human heart.

On "b", I will give you some links but I don't approach the "problem" that precise way. We are all here in this world to choose, believers and unbelievers both, and the most important choice is the one to follow Christ. Once we believers have made that choice, we are now here to show to what degree we are willing to respond to the incredible Gift of Jesus Christ. We have every reasons to respond enthusiastically and consistently – we owe Him more than we will probably ever know, following Him closely is the only safe route to heaven, AND we are going to be evaluated by Him for all these post-salvation choices we make: rewarded with eternal blessing and honors for everything truly good we have done. So in thinking about this, in my reading the Bible only approaches things from the negative point of view when it is attempting to get someone to turn around; once the person has turned around it is mostly positive in its approach, attempting to get the Christian to run the best possible race for the glory of Christ, the building up of the Church, and a wonderful reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ – just as we spank our children for doing dangerous things but then encourage them in their good behavior and positive things thereafter. So that has been my approach to ministry too.

Biblical Repentance

The meaning of repentance

The Judgment and Reward of the Church

Do feel free to write me back about any of this – especially since I have approached the question differently from the way you asked it.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Hello, Dr. Bob,

Thank you for your answers.

What was in my mind, which I wasn't able to specify, was repentance for believers. As I understood from the studies that are linked in the email, evidence of genuine repentance for unbelievers is what John the baptist called "fruits", while for believers it is turning from the wrong way towards the right way. The emphasis is not the emotion shown upon one's realization of guilt but the action taken after the fact. The principle of God offering His gracious mercy and accompanying blessings to be responded by humans by faith is true not only upon being saved but also afterwards. The persons that I have in mind that led me to ask you the question are similar to the one mentioned by James in his letter such that they saw their appearance in the mirror and went away still unchanged.

May I ask another question. When a person believes in Jesus upon His appearing, will that person be resurrected right away? Who are going to repopulate the world during the millennium? Not all unbelievers during the tribulation will receive the beast's mark? I know these questions will be answered as I move along with the studies but I can't find them when I read and reread Revelation, or maybe I wasn't looking really hard.

Thank you for your kind patience, sir.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Response #18: 

John the baptist's situation is unique:

“He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:17 NKJV

John's role was to preach to the people of God, the people of Israel, all of whom were God's people, all of whom were supposed to be believers (even though many weren't, of course). And he does tell them what repentance means for them:

So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”
Luke 3:10-14 NKJV

In other words, just as you say, it's not good for believers to say "I repent!" and go about doing just what they were doing before. Biblically, repentance is a change of heart; if we really do have a change of heart about our prior bad behavior, it ought to lead to doing a better job going forward. On the one hand then, sanctification is a part of a genuine change of heart; on the other hand, this is biblical defense and won't be productive in the end if it is not coupled with what is even more important, namely, learning, believing and living the truth in a positive way, walking closer to Jesus Christ through the taking in and believing and applying of the truth, the fruit of which is a better witness of the walk, better expression of the truth, and a better ministering of the truth to others, the things which bring rewards. Staying away from sin does not bring reward in and of itself – we are all expected to do that.

The Millennium will begin with all who rebelled to take the name of the beast or his number removed in the baptism of fire. Those who believe on His appearance must wait for their resurrection; the resurrection at His second advent is for those who are already part of His Church. The world was repopulated by Noah and seven others very rapidly after the great flood, and the conditions of the Millennium will be much better. Even if only children under a certain age were to be allowed to enter, there would be more than enough stock to repopulate in record time. And as you say, there will be (apparently) unbelievers who do not take the mark (especially among the Jewish population of the world).

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Hello Robert,

Do more people go to heaven or hell?


Response #19: 

You are a believer in Jesus Christ, so you are saved – just make sure to hang onto your faith, and take pains to build it up day by day through spiritual growth and sanctification.

It is very clear that most people who are connected to "Christian" churches and denominations are not believers; add the fact that the vast majority of the human population have not even had a nominal affiliation with the Church and I think you have your answer pretty clearly. All believers are saved, but only believers are saved, and most people do not believe in Jesus Christ – even many who are members of putatively "Christian" groups.

The one caveat here is that those who die young, before reaching the age when they are held accountable for exercising the image of God they have been given to accept or reject (or refuse to accept) Jesus Christ. All such are saved without making the choice to believe since they didn't have that chance. I can't say for certain, but in my estimation of things, this may very well be the largest group of those in Christ's Church (cf. 1Ki.14:13; Rev.5:9). See the links:

Distinguishing the Saved and the Unsaved

How Many are Saved?

Infant Salvation

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I hear this a LOT. A lot of "Christians" will often tell others that they are not sure if they're saved, or they doubt their salvation. For me personally, I know that Ihave eternal life because of God's promise in the bible. I will never stop believing that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and I am willing to go to the grave believing that. But for others, they have their uncertainties. I don't understand why. Is it because they simply don't believe? or is it because they are living in habitual sin? Why would someone claiming to be Christian doubt their Salvation? I stand on God's promises in the bible. I understand that Christians can walk away from the faith because of their free choice/will, but other than that, I don't understand why someone calling themselves a believer would doubt their salvation? Thay sounds like an oxymoron to me. 1st John 5:13 states that we can know that we have eternal life, and he is saying it in the present tense (if I'm correct). So why the uncertainty of faith with some Christians? and this happens to genuine Christians. Can you please help me to understand why people's faith diminishes or why they doubt their salvation because this has MAYBE happened to me when I was first saved about 20 years ago. And I never doubted my Salvation after that. I never doubt my Salvation because from what I've read in scripture, every word can be tested and it will show that it's absolutely TRUE. All the prophecies and teachings on godliness, and the decline of morality in the last days...they're all TRUE. So I take every Word of God to be absolutely true, and that especially includes His promise of Eternal Life to those who put their trust in Him. Please help me understand...

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #20: 

I rejoice in your great faith and you absolutely correct application of the truth!

As to why others don't, no one knows the heart of another person except for the Lord. In my experience in dealing with these problems (as you have no doubt read in many postings at Ichthys), there are many of our brothers and sisters who are prone to guilt feelings. We all have our weaknesses, of course, and for those who have this one, it manifests itself in feelings of doubt based upon long past errors, often nothing the rest of us would see as terribly significant. One of the problems is lack of understanding of the truth. For those not well versed in the Bible or under the influence of one false teaching or another, it is easy for certain scriptures to be manipulated to make it seem as if a lack of peace or the commission of some deadly sin puts salvation in doubt. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is part and parcel of the sloppy teaching, false teaching, and lack of teaching which is the rule in Laodicea.

Please see the link: "No, Hebrews does not teach that you've lost your salvation".

My advice: be grateful that you have such a strong faith, hold onto to it, and take pains to build it up through continuing spiritual growth day by day.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hi Robert, what is your take on King Saul and why it was too late for him to repent in a saving way? I looked on Ichthys search but didn't see anything on this.

Your friend,

Response #21: 

As Samuel said to Saul when he appeared to him the night before he died, "tomorrow you and your sons will be with me" (1Sam.28:19). Now we know that Samuel was saved, and Jonathan too, so "being with me" has to mean being in paradise where only believers were to be found. So Saul was saved – even though he died "the sin unto death". There is a difference between apostasy – the complete loss of faith by a person who rejects the Lord in whom he/she once believed – and a highly wayward believer who forces the Lord to take him/her home in a painful way to eliminate a continuing and usually worsening bad witness (see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

Here are some of the places this is discussed at Ichthys:

Was Saul saved?

Spiritual Warfare II

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

Hello Robert,

It's been awhile since I last spoke to you, and I was hoping you could help me. You see, I had a rough year, and I developed a rebellious nature towards God. I did many things I wish I could take back. I now find myself fearing for my salvation. I want to come back to God, I just don't know if God will let me after reading Hebrews 10:26. Please help.


Response #22: 

I remember you well; I'm sorry to hear that you are still having spiritual troubles.

I think we have discussed this sort of thing before. If you will recall, every believer who confesses sin to the Lord is forgiven completely (1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.32:5; 51:1-19; 65:3; 86:5; 103:8-12; 130:3-4).

Sin of any kind when not confessed and linked to lack of repentance and "going one's own way" instead of God's way results in the believer moving farther and farther away from the Lord. The danger there is not that some sin will be committed which cannot be forgiven – Christ has already died for all of your sins and for the sins of the entire world so that it is supreme arrogance to think a sin cannot be forgiven since the Son of God has already paid the price for that forgiveness – but that the believer will stop caring . . . and eventually stop believing. And only believers are saved (Jn.3:18). Sin hardens the heart, and when the heart is totally hardened against God, faith dies . . . and only believers are saved.

Hebrews 10:26 is, as we have discussed before, I believe, misunderstood by most people; it is addressed to Jewish believers in Jerusalem who were falling back into the rituals of Judaism, a blasphemous thing because those sacrifices represented a Messiah not yet come – when Jesus had indeed come and had already died for their sins. It was a terrible witness, and in this verse you ask about, Paul assures them that if they persist in this behavior, none of the animal sacrifices they are offering will be able to cleanse them of their sins: indeed, it is their participation in those sacrifices and other rituals of the Law which is precisely the problem. The application for us today is NOT that there are sins which cannot be forgiven, but that if we are presently engaged in sinful behavior no amount of works righteousness will bring forgiveness; only stopping the wrong we are doing is going to bring about a change – when we confess and repent and start living in a sanctified way again. The most recent posting at Ichthys has a lot to say about this: "Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation II"; and here is a link that speaks about Hebrews 10:26 specifically: extended paraphrase of Hebrews 10.

Let me also point out that you have now proven to yourself what I was saying to you all along, namely, that only daily Bible study from a good source of truth and resultant spiritual growth will help you move forward in this life for the Lord. Spiritual advance is a necessity or else spiritual regression is assured: there is no standing still in the Christian life. So I urge to confess your sins in full confidence that Jesus loves you and that God the Father is eager to have you back in fellowship just as the father received back the prodigal son. And going forward, please consider committing yourself to a consistent plan of spiritual growth, Bible reading, prayer, and above all Bible study from a solid source you trust. Ichthys is available free of charge and anonymously. I also highly recommend the lessons of Pastor Curt Omo at Bible Academy (at the link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Hi Bob,

The bible talks about a sin which leads to death and I am clueless as to what sin that might be. From reading your previous email, I'm thinking that it is the sin of unbelief, but not sure. I've heard several different interpretations on this, such as this sin is maybe suicide, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Can you please help me to understand what is this sin that leads to death. Thank you in advance!

God Bless,

Response #23: 

These are different things entirely.

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit or the so-called "unpardonable sin" is the sin of rejecting in one's heart the Spirit's witness to Christ which He is making clear to the unbeliever receiving the gospel. When the Spirit tells the unbeliever that the gospel you shared with him/her is true, they will either accept it and be saved, or else they will reject the Spirit who is testifying to their hearts through the gospel message; that rejection, calling the Spirit a liar, in effect, is unpardonable, because Jesus Christ is the only Sacrifice for sin. See the link: "An Extended Conversation on the 'Unpardonable' Sin".

The sin unto death (see the link) is what happens to believers who engage in a spiral of reversion and sinfulness that grows ever worse making them an ever worse witness for Christ; at some point, the Lord is unwilling to tolerate their lack of responsiveness to His repeated calls to them to come back to sanctification and respond to discipline; at that point the discipline becomes terminal. They are still believers and will still be in heaven with the rest of us, but absent reward which they might otherwise have won. King Saul is a good example of this.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24: 

I read through your exposition of the 4 soils and I believe I would fall into the thorny category due to my past (sadly). I was encouraged when you said the thorny soil was not a total loss out of the 3 negative soils. Excellent exposition.

Thanks Robert, for all your years of help. You never cease to reply and I'm sure I have been frustrating more than a few times. I probably would have written me off by now. Hopefully when I get in a position to be able to help others, I would be like you. Never giving up on drilling down on the truth until someone gets it. Spiritual troubles are painful and there are many who don't want to spend the time.

Your friend,

Response #24: 

When you are led into ministry and begin to engage in it, that will be more than enough "pay back" from my point of view. It does my heart good to hear this from you.

On the soil types, in this parable the whole idea is not that "soil can't be changed" but that we are responsible for how we nurture the faith plant that sprouts from the seed of the Word. If we are choking it off and keeping it from being productive, then the Lord is not telling us this to "accept our lot as thorny"; rather He is telling us to chop back the weeds and let the plant of faith grow and produce.

As long as we are still alive, we can do something for Him and His Church every day we are given: grow, progress and help others do the same. That will be the basis of our reward, namely, what we did TODAY.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hello Dr.,

I’ve got Bible Basics Angelology MP3s ready for you this week, over six hours of audio in this one.

Not much new to report here, just plugging along as usual. The budget at the City has got our Council members a bit upset, seems they can’t quite grasp the concept of budget cuts equaling reduction in employees/services/pet projects. It will be interesting to see what they come up with when all is said and done this April. Of course next years budget has to be submitted this July, and seeing that they aren't even settled on this current year (for the second time) it’s bound to be interesting.

How are things with your situation? Sounds like you were being more than generous with your with your contract negotiations to no avail. Considering the caliber of people running our institutions these days the lack of common sense, decency, (real) concern and respect for others should, unfortunately, be expected. As you know so very well it’s only going to get worse, but that means good news for us, He’s coming back, thank God for Jesus Christ! Those who pay Him no mind haven’t a clue what He can do, but we know better.

I should have more files for you in about a month. Got you in prayer here daily. All the best!


Response #25: 

Thanks for the new files!

I note that your testimony figured large in this weeks posting – thanks for that too.

I'm praying daily for your situation. I hear what you are saying about being surprised at what cuts eventually do.

Don't know if I ever told you this ancient Greek joke but it's worth repeating. There was a man with a mule who decided that he would train the mule not to eat. Every day he began to feed the mule a little less but worked him just as hard. Finally he got to the point where the mule was being given nothing and eventually it died. His friends came by to commiserate with him and said, "Yes, and it is a particularly grievous tragedy because I had just managed to train him not to eat!" Moral of the story, evil/bad people never "get" that the damage they are doing is evil/bad. A good lesson for Christians who might be vainly tempted to think that if these people or "the public at large" just "knew the truth" things would improve. We who know the truth know that nothing is going to improve this side of the second advent – but that in spite of all attacks, the Lord brings us through even so.

Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the LORD that one gets justice.
Proverbs 29:26 NIV

I still haven't heard back on my contract and I'm not eager to press the issue unless and until it gets so long in the tooth it becomes prudent to do so. I don't think there's much for them left to take away from me, but one never knows. I'll let you know.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Hi Robert,

I have been going over what you have written in then past (it is very helpful ) and came across this -

"As a personal matter it is hard for me to understand why once a person has decided to come back to God every single one does not do so energetically and unreservedly, but apparently that is not the universal approach (far from it). But coming back to Him is a good thing, however one goes about it. I do not believe that there has ever been a single case of a person wanting to come back to God and being unable to do so. The problem is that if a person does not grab the opportunity of restoration while it is available, sooner or later the person will stop caring and stop believing entirely."

I thought about Esau. I know there are different interpretations on this but isn't he one who was unable to come back to God? I have read your section on Esau questions. How do we know he wasn't a believer? Also, there are many who believe the sin unto death is spiritual death and not physical. How do you know it's physical from the original languages? (I realize this is all asked because of my ignorance but I am working on that). I thought you believed it was physical but after reading a response you gave on this I'm not quite sure where you are on it exactly.


Response #26: 

On Esau, we find in scripture:

“I have loved you,” says the LORD.
“Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’
Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?”
Says the LORD.
“Yet Jacob I have loved;
But Esau I have hated,
And laid waste his mountains and his heritage
For the jackals of the wilderness.”
Malachi 1:2-3 NKJV

I can assure you that the Lord has never hated a believer. Yes, God is love and loves everyone; yes, Jesus died for everyone; yes, the above is an anthropopathism (link). But "love" and "hate" do express here a fundamental difference between God's attitude towards the two, one which expresses a relationship and one which denies that one exists. The latter could only be true of an unbeliever. Paul affirms this in Romans (see Rom.9:6ff.), using Esau in contrast to Jacob to prove that just because a person is physically born a Jew does not save him/her – because if that were true, Esau would have been saved along with Jacob. That whole argument doesn't work (especially not the way Paul relates it to birth and heritage) if Esau was ever a believer – which he was not. Moreover, believers give some evidence of their status. Jacob certainly did, calling on the Lord and affirming the Lord's goodness to him on many occasions. That is not true of Esau – in fact just the opposite. After all, he despised his birthright which was first and foremost the spiritual connection to the Lord which is true Israel's true heritage. What he regretted, when he cried to Isaac after Jacob had stolen his blessing, was the loss of perceived material benefit, the kind of material blessing all too many "churches" promise today in the false "prosperity gospel". So when Hebrews 12:7 says that Esau "found no place for repentance" it is not saying that repentance was impossible but that he had no desire for it (i.e., repentance); what he wanted was the blessing without the spiritual response to the Lord (just like the devil and all unbelievers want heaven without God). *What is commonly misunderstood is the last part of Hebrews 12:7, "though he sought IT with tears": the "it" refers to the blessing and NOT to repentance. Think about it. Esau begged Isaac for the blessing with tears – no idea or mention in the passage in Genesis of him being willing to repent of his unbelieving ways.

Did you see this link? (https://www.ichthys.com/mail-hebrews-questions2.htm) There's a lot about the subject there too.

On the sin unto death, yes it is physical (see the link) but it is brought on because of spiritual issues, that is, living such a bad witness for the Lord that He takes the person out of this life. Can you give me the context of what you thought contradicted this?

The classic biblical example is the incestuous Corinthian man who was having relations with his stepmother. Paul says about that:

. . . deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1st Corinthians 5:5 NKJV

The phrase "destruction of the flesh" couldn't be any clearer. There are no more apostles and consequently no more apostolic powers, so the sin unto death can only be brought on now by the Lord Himself – but He does do so in cases where a believer who really does want to be saved has taken behavior to bad extremes.

There is also a massive theological problem with seeing the sin unto death as spiritual: we are not damned for sin; we are damned for unbelief. If sin cost us salvation, no one could be saved. Apostasy, the loss of salvation, is the loss of faith which results in the person not being a believer any longer, and only believers are saved (Jn.3:15-18).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Hello Professor,

Happy new year to you and all your family, I’m sorry it’s a bit late. I hope all is well!

My brother and I spent Christmas and the New Year in Malta, it was nice to see the family but on a spiritual note it wasn’t a very productive one. It never seems to be when I go home and that is why by the second week into the holidays I am looking forward to coming back to continue my spiritual growth. The last email I sent you we talked about my mother, that she wanted to learn more about The Bible but once we were down there she did didn’t seem keen to ask us anything or be willing to learn more about our Lord. I continue to pray for her in His name that one day we can all sit down and talk about the Truth.

My Bible study is back on track now and I’m currently reading Soteriology on Ichthys and I’m also listening to the John series with Curtis Omo. The other week I purchased Unger’s Old Testament commentary (still waiting for it to arrive) as I’m struggling to read the book of Isaiah. I think it’s more of the ancient terminology that I’m not getting and to what Isaiah is referring to. I’m hoping the commentary will help me throughout my OT studies.

Moving onto my question, is it possible for a believer to still have a hardened heart? In your Soteriology study I’m currently reading through the different phases of the hardened heart for the unbeliever, whilst on Bible Academy I am also listening to John 14 were it tells us that the Apostles still don’t understand the unity of the Father and the Son. Would you say this is a type of hardened heart? After all the Apostles have witnessed Jesus throughout his earthly ministry and still they are asking questions like John 14:8 ‘’Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

In Luke 24:13-35 we also come across two of Jesus’ disciples on the road to Emmaus who also show a type of hardness of the heart as they don’t even recognize Jesus Christ himself. Did Jesus do this for a particular reason, to not be recognised? The disciples also state Luke 24:21 ‘’but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.’’ This tells me that these two disciples did not believe what Jesus had preached throughout his ministry and that they were not aware of scripture Luke 24:27 ‘’And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’’

What are your thoughts on this Professor, did Jesus really have to show his disciples evidence of his resurrection? Otherwise his disciples would of just continued to talk about the events that have happened and would not have believed in Jesus the Messiah.

One thing I didn’t mention is that all these believers (Apostles and disciples) are yet to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, does this change things?

I look forward to hearing back from you Professor.

In our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Response #27:

I'm very happy to hear from you, my friend! We'll keep your mother and family in our prayers. It is always frustrating when those we love don't share our enthusiasm for what we know is most important in this life – especially if they had seemed to be "getting it" and then pull back. It doesn't mean that they won't move our way in the end. Patience, love and prayer is the only thing for it, and most serious, Bible-studying Christians I know and know of have this same problem to a greater or lesser degree. Having a brother who loves the truth as you do is a blessing most would give their eye-teeth for.

Unger is good, which is why I recommend him, but he's far from perfect. He believes the Bible, something that when it comes to commentators is apparently very rare – even among putative believers in Christ. But he does suffer from an academic focus, and from the constraints of his theological background. I would recommend reading part 1 of Coming Tribulation before trying to get too deep into prophetic books such as Isaiah since the basic principles of interpretation described there are essential to understand in order to make head or tails out of much of what Isaiah has to say. The NIV Study Bible edited by K. Barker has reasonably good notes on most of the Old Testament. And of course I'm happy to answer questions.

On hardness of heart, it's a good set of questions. The link to where this phenomenon is discussed in the most detail at Ichthys is: "Phase One Hardening of the Heart" in BB 4B. In a nutshell, any sort of rejection of the truth darkens the heart at least in respect to that truth which has been rejected, and creates within the person, even believers, a "blind spot". Too much of this on the part of a believer is entirely problematic, but can be recovered from by rejecting the lies previously accepted and turning back to those principles of truth previously rejected. In other words, hardening is the opposite of spiritual growth; hardness, such as described in the passages you quote about the disciples (et sim., Mk.6:52), may mean that the truth (in this case of Christ's deity) has not yet been accepted – which acceptance would (and did, in the event) soften the heart, letting the light in and dispelling the darkness.

The Holy Spirit does change things because, being directly within us, He makes the truth that much more clear to us . . . if and when we are willing to accept it. But we still have to expose ourselves to the truth (not much interest in doing that in Laodicea) and accept it when it is heard (an even rarer phenomenon at present).

So I rejoice in you, my friend, because your love for the truth is very evident.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28: 

I think I remember sending my email, you replied and I didn't reply after that. At least I think so. I just didn't know that you visited other sites.

Something I wanted to know regards the mark of the beast. Now I know from your writings what the unforgivable sin is Jesus speaks of in Matthew, so that has been cleared up for me. Now regarding taking the mark. From what I understand, taking the mark is unforgivable. In other words you cant be forgiven even if you want to repent, or so I've heard. So why does Jesus say in Revelation 16:11 that when the people had pains and soars they did not repent as if they could come back? I assume they had taken the mark. Just curious.

Something else, and this may be a difficult question to answer, but what do you think a Christian with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) should do? Especially in regards to intrusive/unwanted thoughts? This is just a curiosity question because it sort of bugged me when I discussed it with someone else and we both didn't like the idea of someone having to take a medication. I know some cases are more severe than others, but do you think its something that as a Christian a person should overcome spiritually? I've heard of Christians who have, so I know its possible. I know a lot of it has to do with fear and anxiety, and we know what the Bible has to say about dealing with those issues.

Finally, I know you don't recommend churches and I'm not asking for a recommendation. I know we are in Laodicea, so finding a good solid church where the truth is being taught and Christians are prioritizing their time and fellowship wisely is near impossible. I've looked but to no avail. I just wanted to know what you think of me going to an independent community church where the false doctrine of osas is taught? I've been going for about 2 months, and I am acquainted with a good number of people there. I also have some relations going as well. The church seems just right in every other area in regards to Christian liberty and beliefs. They are not legalistic, nor are very liberal. The music is well adjusted and descent it would seem. They are also very family oriented. Its sort of a church, at least in my view after having been to others, that is somewhere in between most others out there. I just don't like that they believe in osas. I don't feel hindered or threatened at this church because of that. I believe just as you do regarding this and know what is fact and what is false. The truth will remain in me no matter where I go. Before I started going I had not gone to church in months, especially after having learned the truth on these matters thanks very much to your site. But I started going to this church because I started feeling starved of fellowship and wanted to worship in the assembly of other believers. I don't know, what do you think?

My walk with Christ has been good but also difficult. I have majorly improved in many areas of my life, all praise be to God! I still have certain struggles that I am still in the process of overcoming. But I do continue to improve. Suffering is guaranteed but I know what comes after it. 1st Peter 5:10 comes to mind. I frequently visit your site and the way you teach scripture is amazing! I'm also going through the word with your friend Mr. Omo on his youtube channel. It comforts me to have good Bible teaching. Hope you are doing well and again I thank you so much for your ministry!


Response #28: 

It's no problem, my friend. However, I'm not sure what you mean when you say "I just didn't know that you visited other sites". Ichthys is the only site I'm connected with. I do recommend Curt Omo's "Bible Academy" (which you are familiar with).

On the mark of the beast, it's a good question. Here is what I read in scripture:

"And the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night, those who worship the beast and his image and whoever takes the mark of his name."
Revelation 14:11

In this verse, the taking of the mark is directly associated with the worshiping of the beast who is not God but Satan's son. That is the very definition of being a died in the wool unbeliever. It doesn't actually say that repentance is impossible or that if someone changes their mind or turns to Christ or back to Christ and has the mark expunged they are damned anyway. Scripture is pretty obviously silent on this issue, forcing us to use a little spiritual common sense. First, taking the mark is a horrible idea and it does seem impossible that anyone who believes in Christ would do so. It is such a clear violation of the will of God and is so intimately connected with worshiping Satan and his antichrist instead of the Father and His Christ that it is hard to see how anyone who does believe would ever do this – or how anyone who does believe who does so would retain even a smidgen of faith for any long time thereafter. We know that believers are saved and unbelievers are not saved. As Revelation presents this issue, the world of the Tribulation is starkly divided between those who believe in Christ and those who follow the beast. There will be some (Jewish individuals in particular) who fall into neither camp, but the Tribulation will be an incredibly polarizing time.

So to attempt to answer your question as far as scripture allows, the fact that no one is said to repent indicates to me that even if it is possible to change one's mind about taking the mark, no one (or virtually no one) will do so. That is the truly frightening thing. Remember that the Tribulation with the removal of Holy Spirit's restraint is the time of "the empowerment of evil" where hardening of the heart for those who turn down the wrong path will be much more rapid and intense than is presently the case (2Thes.2:9-12; see the link: "Strong Delusion"). This reduces the chances or those with second thoughts ever acting on them. Scripture thus does not say that the act of taking the mark is "unforgivable"; but it does strongly suggest that no one who does so is any longer "of the faith", and that once it is done, no one will come back from it. That is not the same thing exactly as an unforgivable sin where the act in that theoretical circumstance would be what puts the person beyond the pale; the issue is one of free will, but with this particular action and its gravity (and the unique circumstances that will obtain), once that choice is made, few if any will ever change from it.

On thoughts, the inner fight Christians all have to engage in has many aspects and this is certainly one of them. There are a number of postings at Ichthys which deal with what we may say from scripture about this topic and I will list some of them for you – in essence, you are absolutely correct to assume that conquering one's errant thoughts is accomplished through spiritual growth and the application of the truth one has believed:

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II (starting in particular with Q/A #5)

Christians and Mental Illness

The Christian Struggle (ADHD)

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

On the question of church, there is much about this at the site as well. Your complaint is a common one as is your application. What I have observed over time is that most Christians who become positive about growing in the Word of God yet also want fellowship are usually forced to choose between the two (cf. Matt.6:24). I would certainly never tell anyone not to "go to church", but I also affirm that Ichthys is my church. It may not provide fellowship, but God knows your needs and can certainly see to that one as well as all the others. Patience is often needed, however.

As long as a person is not violating his/her conscience or feeling spiritually compromised, I certainly have no problem with doing what you are doing. I do resist the idea – prevalent among local churches who desire greater attendance and contributions – that going to a physical church and/or joining one is required (or essentially so, even if not expressed in precisely those words), especially inasmuch as few such places have anything serious to do with actually teaching the Word of God in enough substance and depth to actually help anyone grow. Here are some links on this:

Finding a Church – or Something Better?

Finding a Church – or Something Better II

I'm very much heartened to hear of all your good progress, my friend! As you continue to grow, so will you continue to progress. It's often a slow process that we ourselves cannot perceive – like the growth of a mustard seed into a mighty tree – but others notice (as I mentioned I did from your last email).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

I would pls like to ask a question I used sage to clear bad energy create space peace and love in my home I had some ornaments on the table I went over them with the smoke and said peace and love but something made me think I hope this is not a wegi I also cleaned myself of negative energy around my throat as I was having pain and said everything I say is good and sweet and where ever I walk there is peace and love. I also said anyone who sits round this table my dining table is relaxed and happy good vibes the next day I had a visit from my pastor when he came I noticed he did not sit round the table after that I had a dream where I saw an alter with no sacrifice just hair so I through away all the thing's cus I realised this is very negative from then I have been having bad dreams of being in a dark place where lots of shadow and demons my throat that I cleaned started to hurt and I realised my legs started to get cramp. I prayed cus I am a Christian and I realised had created an idol by accident. Now there is a presence in my home which messes with my TV I have spoken of it to stop or go. One morning I woke up and saw a spider which u ever see I thought about releasing it but just killed it. Since then l saw the spirit with the spider in my dream, I am really anxious as I don't know what to do. I can no longer sleep at night I look tired and everyone says I look different I still have the wooden table I have attached what I had I got the ornament from pound shop and sage from a herbal shop. Pls advise me if this is all in my head or what to do any advice

Response #29: 

Dear Friend,

My advice is to forget all of these things and put them out of your mind. None of this has anything to do with the Bible or the Lord Jesus Christ.

My advice: start reading the Bible and start learning the truth from a good source of Bible teaching.

Superstition is not of God.

In Jesus Christ the God-man our Savior through whom alone is salvation by grace through faith.

In Him,

Bob L.

Ichthys Home