17Feb/15

The Nightmare Scenario for Many Believers in Jesus on Judgment Day

Without question in my mind, the most frightening statement Jesus ever made is found near the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

It’s found in Matthew 7:21-23. It was there that He told His entranced crowd on the shores of the Sea of Galilee about the nightmare scenario that many who believe in Jesus will face on Judgment Day.

“Not everyone who says to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice Lawlessness’” (NASB).

That it’s judgment day is clear from Jesus’ reference to “that day,” and the fact that He is deciding the eternal fate of those who come before Him.

Jesus’ command to the many who face him on that day has an air of finality to it—they are to depart once and for all from His presence, most likely to their doom in the Lake of Fire.

That Jesus Himself is the judge on this Judgment Day is also clear. It is affirmed in other Scriptures as well, such as John 5:22: “For not even the Father judges anyone, for He has given all judgment unto the Son.”

In all likelihood, the scene is that of the Great White Throne Judgment found in Revelation 20:11-15 where any whose name was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are thrown into the Lake of Fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Notice also that Jesus very specifically mentions that not a few folks will experience this shocking fate. Not a few, but “many,” will hear these nightmarish words from the lips of Jesus Christ on that fateful day.

Then consider the shocking nature of Jesus’ revelation: that on Judgment Day, there will be many who come before Him sincerely believing and claiming that they have effectively served Him, for much or all of their lives. Their confidence that they had served Him had been bolstered by the fact that they had experienced the supernatural because of their use of the name Jesus—they had prophesied in His name, they had cast out demons in His name, and they had done “many miracles” in His name.

This will not be an isolated experience. Jesus is saying that among the billions of people who will appear before Him on that day, time and time and time again He will encounter these kinds of individuals. Repeatedly, people who sincerely thought that they had their eternal destiny settled for the good because Jesus had miraculously confirmed it will shockingly find out too late that though they were sincere, they were sincerely, terribly, tragically and eternally wrong!

What is so frightening about this passage is that it could happen to any one of us who base our salvation on Jesus. Jesus could be speaking to any of us who name Him as our Savior.

How can you know that this will not be your fate?

Clearly, Jesus would never have made such a frightening declaration unless He intended it to have a beneficial effect on at least some of us. Undoubtedly, His desire was that some of us who heard these nightmarish words would take Him seriously, and would check and double-check to make certain that this terrible fate would not be our own.

A great number of questions should come to all of our minds as we consider this scenario. How could it be that not a few, but many, who will claim to have served Jesus could possibly have been so wrong that he could say to them, “I never knew you?”

How could these same people have worked powerful miracles in the name of Jesus, and have watched these miracles actually come to pass without Jesus’ involvement, and yet in His name? What supernatural power could possibly have been at work here?

What is the precise nature of such a horrendous error?

What could have been done to prevent such a scenario for so many from having been played out? More than that what can be done, to prevent such a possible fate for ourselves?

What clues can we find in the context, or any Biblical text, that could help us in our search for such answers which could be so crucial as to determine our eternal destiny?

Stay tuned, for the answers are a matter of Biblical discernment, a discernment especially necessary according to Jesus in the last days before His Second Coming (See Matthew 24:4-5).

–Pastor Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary

 

27Feb/15

Clues about Jesus’ “I Never Knew You”

As we mentioned in our first installment, the most frightening statement Jesus ever made for those who believe in Him is found in Matthew 7:21-23. There He stated that many will come before Him on Judgment Day thinking they are headed for heaven only to hear Jesus’ shocking declaration “I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (NASB).

We have asked ourselves what clues Jesus gave us concerning why many will experience such a shocking fate.

The major clues are found in verses 21-23 themselves.

First, in verse 21, Jesus flatly states that the issue is that those who come to Him on that day acknowledging Him as their Lord were not among those who did “the will of My Father” (v. 21). In other words, though they called Christ their Lord, they did not actually treat Him as their Lord by doing what He taught them to do. In another version of the Sermon on the Mount, at the conclusion of the sermon, Jesus, in fact, asked his hearers, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not the things that I say?” (Luke 6:46).

The same issue is mentioned in verse 23 in which Jesus identifies those whom He commands to depart from Him as “You who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23b).

So, clearly, disobedience to Jesus’ words and the Word of God, in general, appears to be the major issue.

A second clue is found in Jesus statement, “I never knew you.” So, there has been the issue of a mistaken identity. These people thought they knew Jesus, but Jesus Himself did not know them. Therefore, we must ask ourselves who it was that they had sincerely and mistakenly believed in during their earthly lives. Could it have been someone who posed as Jesus, but was not the real Jesus? Could it have been a bogus Jesus, an impostor of some sort?

A third critical clue in the over-all context of Matthew 7:21-23 is the issue of the influence of false prophets. After Jesus warned the multitude before Him on that great day that “the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it,” but “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it,” He immediately brings up the subject of false prophets. He warned us, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:13-20).

Putting all these factors together, it would appear that these tragic scenarios have been created by false prophets who look like true believers (i.e., “sheep”), but lead people astray by teaching them to follow some false or bogus version of Jesus. These false prophets can be identified by their evil deeds, and they apparently teach their followers to practice their same evil deeds, which is why Jesus can justly declare that the reason they are being sent to eternal damnation is that He never knew them, and that they had not done the will of His Father who is in Heaven.

These conclusions appear to match up with Jesus’ statements in Matthew 24:4-5: “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,” and will mislead many.”

It’s all a matter of Biblical discernment.

So how can we know when we have been misled? How can we discover whether we have been duped into following a false or bogus Jesus?

We’ll explore that issue in my next installment.

–Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary

03Mar/15

Protection Against Deception

Jesus’ chilling warning in Matthew 7 tells us that many who think they have believed in and served Jesus Christ in this life will be shocked when they found out on Judgment Day that they have been duped, and with great eternal consequences.

Last time, we asked the questions, “How can we know when we have been misled by a false prophet? More than that, how can we know if we have actually been following a bogus or false Jesus?

Jesus tells us in the midst of His warnings that there are two ways to discern when you have been led astray by a false prophet into following a false Jesus.

First, he warns that we must carefully examine the fruits, or the works, of the “prophet” whom we are following:   “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20).

History has repeatedly shown that those who are willing to change, replace, distort or eliminate the Word of God have unrighteous motives for doing so. They value the perks associated with creating a group of people who will exclusively follow them—the fame, the money, the influence, the authority, the power—everything associated with becoming a religious leader.

We dare not ignore the glaring inconsistencies in the moral lives of the founders of whatever church, movement or faith we follow. They are often the first clue that we have been led astray.

The second protection against deception is mentioned in the context immediately following the chilling warning of Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus tells us that our entire destiny rests upon our careful and conscientious response to His Words: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish men who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

In other words, the very foundation of our lives must be based on Jesus’ words, found here, and also on the words of those whom He sent—His apostles. That would include the New Testament. The very fact that those who are commanded to depart from Him did not do the will of His Father in Heaven, but rather practiced lawlessness is testimony that they either nullified, distorted, replaced or ignored Jesus’ Words and the words of His apostles in the New Testament. God’s Word is our protection against this horrible deception that will bring about such a nightmare scenario for many on Judgment Day.

To sum up, we must carefully examine any teacher or prophet we follow concerning whether his life and conduct match up with the morality and spiritual truths that Jesus both taught and practiced in his own earthly life. The teachings of any movement, church or sect we are associated with must be critically compared to Jesus’ teachings—as we find them plainly stated in the Bible by both Himself and His apostles. Substantial variations between a prophet’s practices and teachings and the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ Himself is a red flag—a warning sign that we may well have been duped, to our eternal regret.

It’s a matter of Biblical discernment.

Next time, we will pursue other New Testament Scriptures which will clarify for us exactly what kinds of deceptions threaten our eternal destinies.

–Pastor Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary

10Mar/15

False Prophets & False Jesus’s in Other New Testament Passages

We’ve been examining the reasons why many who come before Jesus who call Him “Lord” on Judgment Day will hear His chilling declaration, “I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

We have concluded that the reason why many will be shocked by Jesus’ declaration to them is that they have been deceived by false prophets into following a false Jesus.

We also have come to the conclusion that the way that we can tell whether we have been misled by a false prophet is by examining both the moral practices and the teachings of those who have been our leaders—to see if they are in accord with Jesus’ Word and the words of His apostles. If those we have followed have led immoral lives, or borne bad fruit, they are very likely false prophets. If their message is not in accord with the words of Jesus or His apostles, then our lives are built on a faulty foundation, a foundation which will crumble come Judgment Day.

We asked what other New Testament teachings—the teachings of Jesus’ authorized apostles—might further clarify Jesus’ warnings in Matthew 7.

Much is said throughout the New Testament concerning false prophets. However, II Corinthians 11 must certainly be considered a central passage.

The Apostle Paul had his hands full when it came to teaching and leading the church at Corinth. Many immoral and unruly people had become a part of the church, and unfortunately, the church had also been tolerant of false apostles who challenged Paul’s authority time and time again.

The great apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit makes reference to them late in His second letter correcting the Corinthians for their numerous errors. In II Corinthians 11:2-4 he writes, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by His craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”

Obviously, the issue Paul is addressing is that he fears the Corinthians are being led astray—even as Jesus spoke of false prophets who would lead many astray in Matthew 7. He credits the serpent, or Satan himself, with being the originator of these deceptions which would lead people astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Exactly how these Corinthians are being led astray is also made obvious in verse 4. People were coming in Christ’s name but were preaching “another Jesus whom we have not preached,” the Corinthians were receiving “a different spirit” which they had not received, and/or they were hearing “a different gospel which” they had not previously accepted (II Corinthians 11:4).

Some might think that Paul is commending the Corinthians for receiving such teachings when he says, “You bear this beautifully.” (II Corinthians 11:4b). However, the truth of the matter is, as is borne out by the rest of the passage, that Paul is actually speaking sarcastically. The Corinthians had indeed borne with these false teachings and their teachers “beautifully,” but it was definitely not a good thing. In fact, in verse 6, he defends himself as being “not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles,” and in verse 13 he calls the teachers of these different Jesus’s and different gospels “false apostles.”

Clearly, the deception Paul speaks of here confirms our conclusions about the one Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7—that there are other false or bogus Jesus’s. However, Paul adds two more important issues to the equation. These false apostles were also teaching “a different gospel” and those who were listening and believing them were “receiving a different spirit” which they had not previously received.

So our suspicion that some kind of false, bogus or different Jesus is involved in the major deception Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount is right on. And two more important matters have raised their ugly heads—different spirits and different gospels.

We can now further conclude that false apostles and false prophets are purveyors of false Jesus’s and false gospels, and they bring “a different spirit” to those who receive their teachings.

It’s a matter of Biblical discernment.

But what exactly is “another Jesus,” “a different spirit” or a “different Gospel?

Whatever they are is crucial—because the Apostle Paul indicates in verse 15, like Jesus, that such teachings will have a damning effect on whoever preaches or receives them.

Next time, we will discuss the matter of just exactly what constitutes “another Jesus.”

–Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary

12Apr/15

Exactly What Is a “Different Jesus?”

Years ago a long-lost friend from seminary days decided to look me up. He did an internet search knowing that I lived in Reno, Nevada. He was looking for a Jim Wallace who lived in Reno, Nevada.

And he found one!

So he called him to find out if it was the same Jim Wallace that he had known from seminary days. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The person he called had the same name and lived in the same city that I had formerly lived in, and there were other identifying characteristics which would have led many to believe that he was the same person. He was also a Christian, also in his late 40s, also a husband and a father and he also attended Northgate Community Church. However, he wasn’t a pastor, the father of three daughters, the husband of Jean or a graduate of Dallas Theological seminary.

Sometimes the devil is in the details!

What led my friend’s search astray was that he had not known that my family and I had moved in intervening years into Reno’s major suburb, the community of Sparks.

Fortunately for my seminary friend, as I mentioned, the Jim Wallace whom he had discovered was part of the same church that I pastored. So the Jim Wallace he had found was able to lead him to the Jim Wallace he was seeking, and we had a happy reunion over the phone!

But the story provides us with a lesson, and an omen—people who go by the same name are different people, with distinctive identifying characteristics. If you’re not careful to confirm the identifying details of the person you’re seeking to have some relationship with, you may end up being in contact with the different person who goes by the same name.

If that person is devious, and clever, he may end up attempting to exploit you. That’s a fact that is sadly too often true today in the case of stolen identities. People using other people’s name, social security number and credit history end up stealing thousands of dollars through the fraudulent use of credit cards, Facebook and even IRS tax returns. It all happens because someone was not careful enough to discover the precise identity of the person they thought they were dealing with.

And so it is in the case of what I call “The ‘Jesus Deception.’”

Those of us who are “simple” or “naïve” with regard to the spiritual realities of our world are likely not aware that there is a spiritual war going on—a war involving invisible spirits who are called angels and demons. From Hebrews 1:14, we know that angels were created to be “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” Demons, on the other hand, are fallen angels who rebelled against God and His purposes for them at the instigation of Satan as outlined in Revelation 12:1-9. In their rebellion, they have now turned against God and against those who of us who would inherit salvation and now participate in Satan’s great deception of men in blinding “the minds of the unbelieving sot that they might not see the light of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” II Corinthians 4:4b).

It is these wicked, rebellious and deceptive demons who practice identity theft with respect to Jesus and His name. They are quick to attempt to deceive anyone who might come to the real Jesus by deceiving them into believing He is something other than or less than what the Bible, the Word of God reveals Him to be.

What does the Bible reveal Jesus to be? The Word of God reveals Jesus to be the only begotten Son of God, 100% God and 100% man, the savior of all mankind, the second person of the Trinity, the One who died for our sins and rose again on the third day and alone grants salvation to anyone who simply puts his faith in Him as their Savior. (See Matthew 1:20-25; Mark 2:1-12; John 1:1-18; 3:16-18; 5:18-24; 8:24; 8:58; 10:30; 12:45; 14:6-9; 20:28; Philippians 2:5-11; Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 1:15-20; 2:9).

These demons are also quick to answer the prayers of anybody who calls out in the name of Jesus with a false understanding of who He is and what He has done—namely the God/Man who died on the cross for our sins and rose again. Demons, are by nature, angels, who are more powerful than we are, and are able to do supernatural things—things which are beyond human ability. This explains Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:21-23 that not everyone who would say to Him, “Lord, Lord” would enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and that they would claim to have cast out demons in His name and to have done many miracles in His name. The explanation about how people could have done so without knowing the true Jesus is in this revelation—that there are false Jesus’s in the spiritual realm who pose as the true Jesus. Their true identity is that they are deceiving demons who will answer prayers and even work supernatural miracles in order to continue to deceive those who have false thought that they were the true Jesus. They do these things because their goal is to blind men to the truth about God and Christ, so that they will not be saved. And from what Jesus says, their “Jesus Deception”—their ploy to steal Jesus’ identity, will be very successful. Many who come to Jesus on Judgment Day will have been deceived and incredibly shocked to find that they did not know the true Jesus, but some other “Jesus” and that, therefore, Jesus will say to them on that day, “Depart from Me, for I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:23).

If you fear you have may have followed a false, and unbiblical “Jesus”—that you may have been duped into believing that He is just one of many gods, that He is less then God, that there is some other Savior who long with Him saves, or that your salvation is based on the work of anyone either partially or fully other than the Jesus of the Bible, what should you do?

The answer is this: Recognize that the Jesus Christ of the Bible is fully God and fully man, is the only savior and that through faith and faith alone in Him you can be assured of the forgiveness of sins and heaven. Renounce, in prayer, and out loud, any belief or obedience or association you have had to any other concept or idea you had about Jesus, send the demons associated with this belief away from you in the name of the true Jesus, and announce in prayer your faith in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man, who died for your sins and rose again, according to the Word of God (See I Corinthians 15:1-8).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the e-mail located on this blog! Let me know if you have prayed this prayer! God Bless!

It’s all a matter of Biblical Discernment.

Next time, we will talk about some of the false concepts of Jesus which demons use to deceive the unsuspecting.

–Pastor Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary

11May/15

False Prophets & False Jesus’s

The Lord Jesus Christ said you would know false prophets by their fruits (Matthew 7:16).

The Apostle John said you would know false prophets by what they said about Jesus (I John 1:22-23).

The Apostle Paul agreed (I Corinthians 11:1-5; 13-15).

Just as Jesus predicted, there are many different men who have come in His name, claiming, “I am the Christ” (Matthew 24:5) and there are many who are today preaching sub-Biblical concepts of Jesus Christ.

For instance, there’s the Jesus Christ of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Though the Mormons will claim He is the Son of God, their version of God—their concept of God—differs from the Bible. He is not the eternal Creator of the Universe. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog—in “Christianity’s Latter-Day Counterfeit: Mormonism,” Mormon prophets have consistently taught that God has not always been God, but was once a man who, through exaltation, became God. Jesus Christ is merely a created being who was originally the spirit-brother of Satan. So Jesus is neither eternal, nor the Creator, and as a mere time-bound, finite being could not logically save anyone.

Jehovah’s Witnesses also have a sub-Biblical view of Jesus. They specifically deny that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Creator also. Rather, in accord with their perverted translation of John 1:1-3, He is merely a god—emphasis on the lower-case g. However, the only lower-case g-gods of the Bible are idols. Ultimately, they claim that Jesus was the archangel Michael, a mere created being, who, in accord with his finite capacities certainly is not capable of paying for a nearly infinite number of sins for billions and billions of men.

In Christian Science, Jesus was not the Christ, but the man who demonstrated to the world the “Christ idea.” Christian Scientists emphatically deny that Jesus Christ was god.

A similar idea can be found in the Unity School of Christianity. Jesus was a man and not the Christ. He was a man who had the “Christ-consciousness”—a state of perfection–and has lived many times before in history.

For the New Age worshiper, Jesus Christ once again is not the one, true God. Rather, he’s a guru on the level with other gurus and has become an ascended master like other gurus.

Islam believes in a Jesus, but He’s not the Jesus of the Bible. He was clearly not the Son of God, as an inscription written around the inside of the Dome on the Rock mosque in Jerusalem repeatedly denies. Allah is too great to have had a Son. Therefore, Jesus is not God. Nor did the Jesus of Islam die on the cross or rise from the dead.

Hinduism believes in a Jesus, as well, but not the Biblical Jesus. He is not the only begotten or unique Son of God. He is not God. He was merely an avatar, a guru, or a teacher. He is a son of god like others have been. Nor did Jesus die for all our sins and rise from the dead.

Scientology rarely mentions Jesus, however when it does, it denies He was the Creator, or even one of the beings in control of the Universe.

This list of false Jesus’s is not exhaustive, but it does provide us with some idea of the considerable creativity of Satan and His demons, who according to I Timothy 4:1, are the deceitful spirits that are the source of all false and condemning doctrines we find in the world today.

There are surely an infinite number of wrong answers to the question “Who is Jesus Christ?” Satan knows this, and takes full advantage of this opportunity by providing a great number of false concepts of Jesus Christ in an effort to confuse, deceive and destroy mankind (See John 8:43-44 and II Corinthians 4:3-4).

Have you believed in the true Jesus of the Bible, who is the Eternal Creator manifested in flesh as a man 2000 years ago, and who died on the cross for your sins and rose again on the third day (See John 3:16; 8:24, 58; 14:1-6; I Corinthians 15:1-5)? Your eternal destiny depends on your answer to this question!

–Pastor Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary

13Jul/15

Does Inviting Jesus into Your Heart Save? Part I

Does inviting Jesus into your heart result in a saving personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? That is, does the person who prays a prayer in which He asks Jesus to come into his heart and life have the assurance of being saved from going to hell, God’s forgiveness of his sins and the assurance of eternal life?

I would imagine that most Bible-believing Christians would unhesitatingly reply “Yes!” After all, the exhortation to “invite Jesus into your heart,” or some variation of that phraseology, has been used for decades by most of the major Bible-believing evangelists and their organizations. Many, perhaps even most, born-again believers recited a prayer at the point they first made some kind of commitment to Jesus Christ and were told that it was an essential part of their salvation experience. I count myself among those believers.

However, the exhortation to invite or ask Jesus into your heart or life is never found as part of the salvation formula of the Apostles in the book of Acts. It was never used by Jesus Himself during the course of His Gospel ministry. In fact, it would have been a very strange thing for Jesus to tell those He was preaching to that they had to invite Him into their hearts to be saved. Since He was standing right there among them, no doubt if He had made some exhortation to this effect, they would have wondered how this were physically possible! More than that, the New Testament never teaches that salvation comes to any person because he has uttered such a prayer.

The only possible exception to this fact is found in Revelation 3:20. There Jesus, speaking to the Church at Laodicea, which had become luke-warm in its zeal for Jesus, says to the church members, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

However, this invitation spoken to believers, not unbelievers. It is addressed to the members of the “Church” at Laodicea. More than that, in the immediately preceding context, in verse 19, Jesus indicates that those whom He loves, He disciplines. Hebrews 12:8 tells us that God only disciplines His children or true believers. Therefore, when Jesus was speaking this to the Church at Laodicea, He was indicating the church had left Him out of their fellowship, and He was asking them to let Him back into it! Jesus was not offering them His salvation, but His fellowship!

So the very Word of God which we claim should be the basis for all that we teach and preach, and provides the content of the message that saves which we call the Good News or the Gospel, nowhere uses this phraseology which our modern-day American evangelists and the American Church of Jesus Christ often uses in order to get people saved!

The matter of whether asking Jesus into your heart saves is, therefore, a very good question. It is a question which we must answer from the Scriptures, the Word of God itself, rather than from our own preferences, experiences or even the hallowed teachings of various beloved evangelists, which should guide our answer to such a crucial question.

First, we might ponder for a moment how this phraseology became so popular in Bible-believing, evangelical Christianity, if it is not Biblical.

The answer, I believe, is a bit shocking, and revealing. It is merely, apparently, a teaching of men—a tradition which has been accepted as right or orthodox because of the respect in which those who use this phraseology are held. As I mentioned, they are among some our most respected and successful evangelists and teachers in the evangelical, Bible-believing world.

However, it is sad to say, that we have, as our American evangelical sub-culture, likely become involved in some of the very practices which Jesus Himself decried. I believe we have substituted the teachings and traditions of men for the clear teaching of the Word of God, just as the Pharisees and scribes had in Mark 13 and elsewhere.

Before we pursue just exactly what the Bible has to say about how a person is saved, I want to answer the question which I posed at the outset of this post, for those of you who are becoming impatient. My answer to the question, “Can asking Jesus into your heart save?” is, it depends.

Most of the time, if it is an honest expression of faith in the true Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the God-man and His ability to save us apart from our own works, through grace alone, and repentance is also involved, then the answer is yes, such an expression of faith can and does save. However, if the person uttering the prayer has no understanding of who Jesus really is; if He does not understand that Jesus can and will save Him apart from His works; if there is no understanding that repentance—turning from sin to Christ—is involved, and if the Gospel that Christ died for our sins and rose again has not been preached, then there is a very good chance that the prayer asking Jesus into your life does not save, but rather gives the person a false assurance of salvation.

It’s a point of Biblical discernment—a point which I will support, from the Word of God, in my next post—Can Inviting Jesus into Your Heart Save? Part II.

–Pastor Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary

 

20Jul/15

Which Church Should I Choose?

What Is the Difference between a Roman Catholic Church, a Mormon Church,
And a Protestant or Bible-teaching Church?

Maybe for one reason or another you’re interested in going to a church for the first time, or returning to church and seeking a relationship with God after perhaps having been away from church for a long time.

You’re wondering, “What the difference between the different kinds of churches? Should I attend a Roman Catholic Church, a Mormon Church, a mainline denominational church, a non-denominational church or some other kind of church?

This is a huge question and large volumes have been written comparing and contrasting the beliefs and practices of different churches. I will attempt to be much simpler and straightforward here about the most basic differences between churches.

First, churches differ based on their source of authority—that is, the basic reason why they believe what they believe.

For instance, Bible-believing Protestant and Evangelical churches based their beliefs on the Bible. They most often believe that the Bible, consisting of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God. Therefore, the Bible alone, and what the Lord Jesus Christ said and His Apostles wrote, is the ultimate source of authority and truth for what they believe. These churches believe that anyone, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is able to read and interpret what the Bible says for himself.

Roman Catholics also believe the Bible is the Word of God, but do not believe it is the sole authority for what they believe. They also believe that some additional books called the Apocrypha are the Word of God. They believe that there has been additional revelation from God in the form of the decisions of church councils and popes since New Testament times which they put on the same level as the Bible. These things they call Church Tradition. The Roman Catholics say that only members of the Church Magisterium—basically, all the Roman Catholic bishops when they are in agreement, and the Pope, when he speaks “ex-cathedra” are able to properly interpret the Bible or speak or with the authority of God about faith and practice.

Although Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches agree that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and God’s Son, they disagree on how a person can get to heaven. Their disagreements are based on their differing sources of authority.

For instance, Jesus Himself in the Bible said all that is necessary for a person to get to heaven is to believe in Him. That is, all that a person must do is to believe trust in, rely on, or depend on Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the God-man, who died on the cross to pay for his sins and rose again. (See I Corinthians 15:1-8). This is explained in everyone’s favorite Bible verse, John 3:16, which is a quotation from Jesus Himself: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (NASB). He reiterates this truth in John 5:24; 6:29; 6:40 and 6:47, Luke 7:50 and Mark 2:1-12 as well as many other places.

However, because Roman Catholics believe that there are sources of authority other than Jesus Christ and the Bible, they believe differently about how a person gets to heaven. Belief in Jesus Christ is just a part of what is necessary to get to heaven, according to Roman Catholicism. A complicated series of steps involving faith, good works, baptism, an understanding of the fundamentals of Catholic teaching, spiritual living, repentance, prayer and fellowship with the Catholic Community and continued involvement in Catholic rituals called sacraments are among the requirements for someone to be assured of going to heaven. Essentially, Roman Catholicism teaches salvation is only available through the Catholic Church and its rites for those who both believe in good works and practice the good works outlined by church tradition. More than that, they don’t believe anyone can be sure of going to heaven.

Whereas the Bible teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Roman Catholic Church teaches the opposite—that it is impossible to be saved by faith in Christ alone: “If anyone says that the faith which justifies is nothing else but trust in the divine mercy, which pardons sins because of Christ; or that it is that trust alone by which we are justified: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session 6, “Decree on Justification,” canon 12.)

So, basically, the question which needs to be answered in deciding which kind of church to attend is this: Who are you going to believe? The Bible and Jesus, or Roman Catholic Church Tradition—the Councils of the Roman Catholic Church and the decrees of the popes and the bishops.

As noted above, Jesus clearly said that salvation is by faith alone in John 3:16, 5:24-25: 6:29 and 6:47 as well as many other places, in addition to the Bible’s statements found in Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 3:21—5:11; Galatians 5:6 and many other places. The Councils of the Roman Catholic Church, the traditions of men, disagree.

The same question may be asked with regard to the Mormons, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science and many other supposedly Christian churches who don’t necessarily believe that all that Jesus said or the Bible says is true. What is the basis for their teachings? What authority is the source of what they claim is true about God and salvation? Who do they really believe?

Though all these groups will claim to believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible, a deeper analysis will reveal the real source of what they believe is something that has been written in addition to what Jesus and the Bible really say—which either distorts, adds to, or replaces what Jesus and the Bible really say.

The Mormons say many plain and precious things have been left out of the Bible, and therefore the revelations which came through their prophets Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and many other since have been necessary to correct what was left out of the Bible. The real authority behind the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the Bible, but the interpretations of the Bible by the controlling Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in New York, which are in contradiction to the interpretations of almost all Protestant, Bible-believing and Evangelical churches. Christian Science also claims to believe the Bible, but once again, the real source of authority for what Christian Scientists believe is not the Bible, but the re-interpretation of the Bible by the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, and her book, The Key to the Scriptures. Many other churches which don’t believe all the Bible, or only say the Bible contains the Word of God, rather than is the Word of God, prefer to follow mere human opinions and speculation rather than what Jesus or the Bible says.

The Founder of the Mormons, Joseph Smith, taught that Jesus was just one of many men who have become gods, and that He is not the only begotten Son of God, the only God-man who saves from sin. Essentially, he taught his followers to follow a different Jesus–or different concept of Jesus than what Jesus and the Apostles taught–and that to be saved a person must not only believe, but repent, and be baptized by an authorized representative of the Mormon Church.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe Jesus was God, but a god, and ultimately the archangel Michael. They ultimately insist that faith plus works, including witnessing, are necessary for salvation.

Mary Baker Eddy taught emphatically that Jesus Christ was not God, that sin and sickness are not real, and therefore we do not need to be saved from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Once again, the question regarding which church to be a part of depends on who you are willing to believe. Do you believe Joseph Smith, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Mary Baker Eddy, mere human opinion and conjecture, or Jesus and His Apostles?

Jesus was the only man to ever predict His death and resurrection to the day. As the only man who defeated death, the most credible miracle-worker and truth-teller who ever lived, He’s my choice as the person to believe. No other religious founder or leader has ever accomplished this. His words were confirmed by the Apostles whom He authorized and sent and who wrote the New Testament, and both they and He affirmed belief in the Old Testament as the Word of God.

Therefore, I recommend you become a part of a church which believes and practices according to the ultimate source of truth—Jesus Christ and the Bible. Be very careful to determine that such a church actually believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the God-Man, in the Trinity, and that the Gospel that results in salvation is that Christ died for our sins and rose again and lives according to those truths. Check out their statement of faith or doctrinal statement first before checking them out in person.
For it was Jesus Himself who said, ” “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall” (NASB).

Pastor Jim Wallace,

Risen King Community Church

20Jul/15

Does Inviting Jesus Into Your Heart Save? II

If inviting Jesus into your heart is not the phraseology or formula which Jesus, the Apostles, or the Bible used as the means to getting a person saved, then what is? This is the question that is at the heart of the issue. Exactly what must a person do to be saved?

There is at least one place in the New Testament in which a person effectively asks precisely that question. It is found in Acts 16. The Apostle Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi of Macedonia for preaching the Gospel. They were singing and praising God openly in jail in the middle of the night, making their faith known to all who could hear when God did a great miracle. An earthquake occurred and every cell in the whole prison was opened! The jailer, seeing what had happened, prepared to take his own life, knowing that that’s what the Roman authorities would have required of him if all the prisoners had escaped. However, Paul called out and stopped him while noting that all the prisoners were still in their cells. The jailer then rushed in and when he had brought Paul and Silas out, asked them the oh-so pertinent question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30b).

Paul and Silas answered simply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31).

What Paul and Silas were saying was that if this jailer would believe on, or put his faith, trust and reliance fully and solely upon the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, he could be assured of the forgiveness of his sins and eternal life. (What he was not saying was that if the jailer did so he could be assured that the rest of his family would be saved based on his own confession of faith. Rather, Paul and Silas were teaching that each person who personally puts his faith, trust, or belief in Christ and Christ alone as His savior could be assured of salvation—and that as each member of the jailer’s family came to faith in Christ personally they could also be assured of salvation).

This is just one example in Scripture, but we must necessarily ask if mere belief, faith, confidence, or trust in Christ is consistently all that the New Testament indicates is necessary for salvation.

The answer, with some qualifications, is a dogmatic yes!

Jesus Himself says so repeatedly, especially in the Gospel of John. For instance, there’s John 6:47, where Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes has eternal life.” A few verses earlier, when the religious leaders asked what work they must to do be saved, Jesus tells them, “This is the work of God, to believe on Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). And in everyone’s favorite verse, to believe is the sum total of all that Jesus says is necessary for a person to “do” to be saved— “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 7, Jesus says much the same thing to the sinful woman who came and washed his feet with her hair and her tears— “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:49b). In the Gospel of Mark, it’s when Jesus sees the “faith” of the young men who have lowered their paralyzed friend through the rooftop of the house in Capernaum that he announces their sins have been forgiven (See Mark 2:1-12). Consistently, Jesus Himself indicates belief and its synonym, faith, in Him is what is necessary for eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.

The Apostle Paul agrees not only in Acts 16:31, but in his epistles. The Book of Galatians and the Book of Romans both indicate faith alone in Christ alone is all that is necessary for salvation—and these two letters were written expressly to define what does, and what does not save. (See Galatians 5:6 and Romans 3:21—5:11). In fact, almost everywhere in the New Testament we see the words “believe, believing, faith and trust” used synonymously as the attitudes which a person must place in Jesus Christ alone to be assured of salvation. Other words are sometimes used, and various figures of speech are used by Christ and others, to explain and illustrate that it is faith, trust or belief in Christ alone that saves. Sometimes words such as “repent” and “receive” are used as synonyms for faith in Christ, but clearly at the very heart of the message which saves—which is the Gospel that Christ, the God-Man, died for our sins and rose again—is the good news that it is an attitude, a mindset of belief, trust or faith in Christ alone, that saves us.

It’s all a matter of Biblical discernment.

At this point, someone might say they know of many people who claim to believe in Christ, but there is no fruit indicating they have really been saved. More than that, some might object, “What about the passage in James which says the demons believe and shudder?” These are excellent questions, which we will deal with in our next post on the question, “Can inviting Jesus into your heart save?”

21Jul/15

Can Asking Jesus into Your Heart Save? III –Saving Faith in the Bible

So, given that there are many who claim to believe in Christ and yet demonstrate no evidence or fruit that they are saved, just exactly what is the Bible talking about when it talks about believing in Jesus in such a way that it saves?

Perhaps the clue is found in the book of James. There, in James 2:19, in his discussion of works and faith, the apostle states in reference to someone who claims to have faith, but no works: “ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”

So we should ask this question: “What’s the difference between the faith of demons and the faith of saved believers?

James would obviously answer that the difference is in the works of demons versus the works of true believers. Whatever kind of faith demons have in God, it clearly has no effect on how they behave, other than it causes them to shudder when they think of God’s existence, reality and nature—and that because of those things, a terrifying and eternal judgment awaits them.

Exactly what kind of faith is this? Faith that God will save them? Obviously not! Their expectation is judgment.

Among the definitions which the Greek word for faith can signify, there is one which describes the kind of faith characteristic of demons. They agree with, or give intellectual assent to the fact that God exists.

However, clearly one other definition for faith does not describe them. They do not trust in, rely on or depend on God for their salvation.

The same could be said for the person who simply believes that Christ is the Son of God and that He exists. He gives intellectual assent to or agrees with the facts about Jesus Christ. However, He does not trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.

What demonstrates that a person trusts Christ for salvation? James, again, says that it will be demonstrated by His works. Clearly, if a person truly is trusting in Christ for salvation, He will seek to please Jesus Christ by how he lives his life. He appreciates that Christ died for his sins, and because of this attitude of gratitude and His love for Christ, he will show it by some effort given to obeying Jesus Christ.

It follows the universal axiom that what a person believes determines what he does.

Demons do not believe that God or Christ will save them. They believe God will condemn them. Therefore, rather than obey Christ, they shudder at the thought of God.

Those who truly believe in a saving way then trust that Christ will save them from their sins and the coming judgment. They appreciate what Christ has done for them. Therefore, their trust in Christ for salvation results in some level of obedience to Christ—which is also evidence of their salvation.

As II Corinthians 5:17 puts it, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

So what is the difference between someone who claims to believe in Christ but is not saved, and another person who claims to believe in Christ and is saved? The former merely agrees with the facts about Jesus Christ, but does not put His trust in Christ for salvation. The latter does both.
As a result, his works, or behavior, in one way or another, show his saving faith, as the Apostle James said.

It’s a point of Biblical discernment.