Can you lose your salvation?

To be saved means to be saved from the penalty (eternal damnation) of one’s personal sin. To further extend the definition, to be saved means to be given a new life in Christ.  Since salvation requires a recognition and a turning from (repentance) from your sin, some Christians wonder if it is possible for some folks, who once claimed to be saved, are still saved. They see a lot of people who pay lip service to Christ, maybe by making a decision during an altar call or just by the fact that they grew up in church, but then see them live hypocritical lifestyles.

The word “hypocrite” means “a person who lives contrary to their stated beliefs and opinions.” Certainly a Christian would not have to look far to see that there are indeed some people who claim to be Christians yet consistently their words and actions  do not match up. And I’m not just talking about the occasional slip-up or even the acknowledged struggle with sin, but an unrepentant attitude toward some aspects of their lifestyle.  

So, there are some that would say, “Yes, you were once saved, but you have forfeited that salvation by your lifestyle choice.” Check out what this pastor said:

If you could not give up your salvation voluntarily, then once you become saved you could then go ahead and do whatever you wish. You could steal, murder, cheat, lie, never pray, reject the scriptures, lead others astray, blaspheme God from morning to night – do anything that is sinful, rebellious, and against the laws of God. To believe that “once saved, always saved” is believing that one has a “license to sin” after the person is born again.

So, to summarize it, they seem to be saying:

A)    A person claims to be saved.

B)     He/she may start out with some evidence of their salvation.

C)    They stop going to church/caring about spiritual things and start making worldly decisions.

D)    The Bible makes it clear that you cannot say you are born of God and still make a practice of sinning.

E)    Therefore they must have lost their salvation.

 But, is that the right assessment? Continue reading

Should Women Be Pastors? (part five of five)

Read part one here.

Women in ministry: a complementarian vision

            There are several considerations to ponder as I unpack this vision: 1) There is far more freedom than restriction on what ministries women can participate in, 2) there will be gray areas,  and 3) when in doubt, remember God’s grace. With extreme views on both sides being given, a good dose of reality is in order so as to maintain a Biblical balance between seemingly contradictory truths. Instead of jumping to one side or another, we need to do as my theology professor, Dr. Russ Moore at Southern Seminary, suggested we do: implement theological triage. Just as in an emergency room at a hospital, there may be two patients that have need of medical attention, but the one that is closer to a life or death situation takes precedent. Similarly, we need to understand that, on the one hand, we don’t believe women should teach men authoritatively in the public church assembly, but women do teach men in the Christian life and it can be a good thing. This is not a contradiction, but two things that are true and exist in reality. As long as you understand which truth takes doctrinal priority, there will be no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As my pastor always says, heresy is born out of one truth taken to its extreme without the counterbalance of other seemingly opposite truths. This is how I can work alongside (not at the same church, mind you) women pastors who believe in the inerrancy of scripture and exclusivity of the gospel. The latter two truths take precedent over the fact that she is a woman pastor. Continue reading

Should Women Be Pastors? (part four of five)

Read part one here.

Controversial passages of scripture

              The two passages of scripture that are most often quoted by both sides are 1st Corinthians 14:34, 35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15.  Without a doubt these passages are where the focal point of this whole debate. But, before we can get to them, we have to deal with what each side claims as their pressupositional proof texts: the proof text that colors their interpretation of both of the above-mentioned passages. I am speaking of Galatians 3:28, the foundational verse for egalitarians, and Ephesians 5:22, the foundational verse for complementarians. It is those two verses, not the ones in 1st Corinthians and 1st Timothy, which drive the conflict between the two groups. Continue reading

Youth Ministry and Theology (they CAN mix)

I shared this story awhile back on an early blog entry, but when I was a youth pastor of a church in Jacksonville, FL, I attended a camp that was sponsored by our local Baptist association. The speaker we hired for the week preached on what it means to be “more than conquerors” in Jesus Christ.  He was a very serious-minded preacher, who did not tell a lot of jokes, but was really good at breaking down some deep theology into bite-sized pieces for the teens in attendance.

When we got back from that camp, I met with one of the youth pastors in charge of the camp and asked him what he thought of the preacher. Suprisingly, he rolled his eyes and, speaking out of the side of his mouth, said, “If I wanted a lecture in theology, I would have taken my youth group to a seminary class.”  Despite the fact that the altar call was filled with young people giving their lives to Jesus, this particular youth pastor thought the guest preacher failed to connect to youth.

I thought he was wrong then and this weekend’s retreat served as a reminder that what Christian youth need today is solid APPLICABLE Biblical theology. Continue reading

The Ascension of Christ (part 2 of 2)

The Roles of the Ascended Christ

 The offices of the Ascended Christ are important to understand because it explains to us why the Old Testament system of yearly sacrifices is no longer need and how the work and purpose of the atonement of Christ do continue on today.  Continue reading

The Ascension of Christ (part 1 of 2)

Introduction

Many modern-day theologians and preachers have largely ignored one of the most important doctrines in our lives as Christians— a doctrine that is absolutely crucial to the survival of our faith; that doctrine is the Ascension of Jesus Christ.   A few denominations do celebrate it in remembrance, but with little enthusiasm.  Although, Mikeal Parsons notes that the Ascension has received significant attention since the 1950s, it can be generally said that the Ascension is largely ignored among Christian scholars and laypeople throughout modern history. Continue reading

"Pushing the Antithesis"

This is a perfect example of how to use a skeptic’s presuppositions against him.  Taken from his book “Pushing the Antithesis”, Dr. Greg Bahnsen shows us amatures how to expose the inconsistencies in a skeptic’s worldview. (P.S. You have to have some familiarity with the laws of logic and with the debate over the existence of God. If you read the exerpt and find yourself scratching your head, don’t worry, it’s totally understandable!)

The following is an excerpt from “The Great Debate: Does God Exist?,” a formal debate between Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen and Dr. Gordon S. Stein that was held at the University of California (Irvine) on February 11, 1985. Dr. Bahnsen begins the cross examination:

Dr. Bahnsen: “Are all factual questions answered in the same way?”

Dr. Stein: “No, they are not. They’re answered by the use of certain methods, though, that are the same—reason, logic, presenting evidence, and facts.”

Dr. Bahnsen: “All right. I heard you mention logical binds and logical self-contradictions in your speech. You did say that?”

Dr. Stein: “I said. I used that phrase, yes.”

Dr. Bahnsen: “Do you believe there are laws of logic, then?”

Dr. Stein: “Absolutely.”

Dr. Bahnsen: “Are they universal?”

Dr. Stein: “They’re agreed upon by human beings. They aren’t laws that

exist out in nature. They’re consensual.”

Dr. Bahnsen: “Are they simply conventions, then?”

Dr. Stein: “They are conventions, but they are conventions that are self-verifying.”

Dr. Bahnsen: “Are they sociological laws or laws of thought?”

Dr. Stein: “They are laws of thought which are interpreted by men and promulgated by men.”

Dr. Bahnsen: “Are they material in nature?”

Dr. Stein: “How can a law be material in nature?”

Dr. Bahnsen: “That’s a question I am going to ask you.”

Dr. Stein: “I would say no.”

Moderator: “Dr. Stein, you now have an opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Bahnsen.”

Dr. Stein: “Dr. Bahnsen, would you call God material or immaterial?”

Dr. Bahnsen: “Immaterial.”

Dr. Stein: “What is something that is immaterial?”

Dr. Bahnsen: “Something not extended in space.”

Dr. Stein: “Can you give me an example of anything other than God that is immaterial?”

Dr. Bahnsen: “The laws of logic.”

Moderator: “I am going to have to ask the audience to hold it down please. Please. Refrain from laughter and applause. Can you hold that down please?”

 

Talk about walking right into that one!   I have heard this debate in its entirety and must admit that Dr. Stein was way out of his league. I wonder how a more competent atheist would handle Bahnsen’s line of questioning here.

Do Youth Believe the Bible?

As a Youth Pastor, I have met several youth who have, at some level, doubted the Bible. It’s not that they want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, but more so that they only want to believe parts of the Bible. So, like Picadilly Cafeteria, they pick and choose what they like and leave the rest behind.

Obviously this is not limited to just youth (middle schoolers/high schoolers). But, what is so surprising is how young CHRISTIAN youth are willing to compromise their faith in scripture. Even as soon as 12 years ago, when I was in high school, I don’t think I met a Christian that had this struggle. It was more typical to see this struggle take place during college. But, I guess with the erosion of the family and the encroachment of secular humanism in the public square and in our schools, it should come as no surprise that this generation of youth are questioning the Bible at a younger age.

And, in typical postmodern fashion, these youth do not totally give up their faith. They’re cool with God, Jesus (even Jesus dying on the cross for them), and most of the attributes of God. But, when it comes to ethical issues such as homosexuality, who they should and should not date or marry, abortion, music, politics, evolution, racism, and their social life- well, they’re more likely to listen to their friends and the culture in general than they are the Bible.

So, is the Bible reliable?  I believe every word of it is. I have studied Bible scholarship that is both approving of and critical of the Bible- specifically textual criticism- and I have found that the best of the critical scholars are unconvincing. But, this blog entry is not about the reliability of the Bible. To read more on that I suggest any book written by FF Bruce, Craig Blomberg, DA Carson, or Bruce Metzger. At this time I am more concerned with the dangers of genuinely born-again Christian youth compromising their view of scripture and what we can do to avoid those pitfalls.

The Dangers of Doubt

Doubting the Bible in some areas and not in others reminds me of the Titanic. When the Titanic was struck by its imfamous iceberg, it ripped several holes in the hull of the ship. Underneath the hull were 16 water-tight compartments that were broken up on purpose in case there was a breach in the hull. It was designed to handle four flooded compartments. Unfortunately, it was ill-designed in that the “water-tight” compartments didn’t go all the way up to deck level. So, the water would fill up one compartment and over flow into another, and another, and – you get the point.

The Titanic is not the Bible in this comparison. It is a young person’s understanding of the Bible. If we do not give our youth a truly water-tight foundation, then that little bit of doubting that you think is just a phase they’re going through, will quickly become full-blown skepticism. Although they may be saved, they will continue to flounder in their spiritual life long into adulthood.

You want to know why a good Christian man or woman ends up divorced? Then start with their understanding of scripture right around the time they were dating their spouse. Oh sure, there are exceptions, but I am pretty certain it has to do with what they thought the Bible said concerning marriage. There are so many youth that I’ve known that are dedicated Christians and are clearly Biblical in so many areas, yet they will scoff at anyone who even dares to tell them their definition of romance, love, dating, or marriage is unbiblical.

And it’s not just dating/marriage. Politics is to be left untouched by the Bible as well. In fact, so strong is the family’s influence on a youth when it comes to politics, I have actually heard youth admit to me that the Bible proved them wrong about a certain issue or the ethics of a candidate. Yet they were going to go ahead and vote for said candidate because they trust their grandfather’s or parent’s opinion more than they do the Bible.

There are certain areas in a teenager’s life that are just off limits to God and His Word. Parents, youth workers, pastors, and concerned friends need to take note of these sensitive areas. These are NOT PHASES! They are to be treated very seriously because you don’t know what is corroding their Christian foundation underneath a so-called phase. What starts out as a one or two-issue problem will quickly snowball into something much more damaging as the youth connect the dots and begin to tell themselves “if the Bible is wrong about THIS, then it may be wrong about THAT as well.”

With as much Bible-centric jargon as I am presenting here, one may think I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Scriptures. No, I am not trying to elevate a physical Bible with ink and paper to some mystical level equal to that of God. To do so would idolatry. However, it is God who created us and therefore it is God who gets to decide how He would speak to us. He has clearly shown us that he speaks to us through a book written 2,000 years ago and has stood the test of time. That is why I go to great lengths to keep the Bible on the frontburner of the minds of our youth.

Our Response

So, how do we keep the Bible in the forefront of young Christians’ minds? It is a three-fold response: 1) Parents 2) Pastors/Youth Pastors 3)youth themselves.

1) I mentioned the strength of parental influence in terms of politics. But, it is also true concerning religion. Parents listen too much to pop culture which has told them that their kids’ friends and tv icons are more of an influence than they are (and if they are to win over the affections of their kids, they have to compete with said friends and icons). This is simply not true. When they get older most of them are not going over to the friends’ house for thanksgiving and Christmas- they’re going back to the strongest influence in their life- their parents. That’s because family has the kind of bond only God could have created.

So, parents need to step up and take back their role as the primary discipler of their own children. Have regular Bible devotions with them, constantly bring up issues and how they relate to the Bible, and for petessake, don’t be afraid of answering their questions (or asking them for that matter). Trust me, they may act like their not listening, but they are: “Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

And as I said before: parents should not think that doubts concerning scripture is a phase. Confront it head on (with love) and nip those doubts in the bud.

2) Pastors should understand that their congregation cannot survive by just sucking on the milk of the word. They need meat. Pastors today need to put to bed the old fundamentalist understanding of the “simple gospel” and give these youth the answers that their ever questioning minds demand.

And youth pastors need to spend less time fiddling with their powerpoint lessons and youtube “application” videos and more time actually studying the Bible. I have had questions ask to me by young people that would make Nietzche’s head spin. And I’m going to win them over with cool audio-visual aids? I don’t think so. Not that I’m against those things- but, if you find that your youth pastor is leaving most questions left inadequately answered, then they need to be challenged to study more.

During my first stint as a youth pastor, several youth pastors put their youth groups together so that we could do our own youth camp. The speaker they invited preached on the “more than conquerors” passage throughout the week. Although I have my own issues with the speaker, I thought that his main sermons were quite excellent- and were well-recieved by the youth. But, after camp, one youth pastor mentioned to me, “Yeah, we’re not inviting so-and-so back to speak next year.”  “Why not?” I asked. “Because, the youth need the gospel, not a lecture on theology.”

Not a lecture on theology. I guess the gospel isn’t theology.

No, what they need IS theology- the kind of theology that satisfies their souls and helps them make sense of their world. Youth pastors have maybe two hours a week with their youth. That’s it. For most youth, that’s all they’ll give them. Do we really want to fill those two hours with fluff? Or are we going to do the hard work it takes to break down the deep truths of the gospel into bite-sized pieces that the youth can understand?

3) “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17  Many times a simple helping hand from a peer will do what a parent or youth pastor cannot do. The whole “You just don’t understand me because your too old,” excuse melts away when a Christian peer reaches out to another Christian peer. Benji Thigpen, David Crowe, Jonathan Adams, Eric Snow, Stuart Henslee. These are the names of guys that were in high school the same time I was- guys who had a profound impact on my spiritual development. I looked at these guys and though- geez if they can do it then I sure can. Youth need to challenge, encourage, and keep each other accountable on their view of the Bible.

One more thing: Sometimes the reason why we don’t dig deeper into the lives of young people is because we are afraid of what we may find. We may find that they never turned from their sins and accepted Jesus to begin with. We may find that they don’t really believe. It’s a scary thought for a parent who wants desperately for all of his/her children to be Christian. It’s also a scary thought for a youth pastor to think that the work they put into that teen’s life is for nothing.

Yet, we must ask. As Charles Spurgeon said, “If we are to err, let us err on the side of caution.” It is better to be wrong about a person’s salvation and have a good laugh about it one day when you’re both in heaven, then it is to be wrong about a person’s salvation and be the only one in heaven laughing. It’s not that we are responsible for their salvation (they are and ultimately God is) but we definitely don’t want them to leave this world with any excuses as to why they didn’t believe.

So, yes, let us teach the whole Bible to our youth- not just the easy parts. And if all three parts are functioning together- parents, pastors, and youth- then we will easily see how the word of God is still alive today and still in the business of transforming lives.