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Saturday, 28 July 2012

London Olympics Opening - A Taste of Heaven?

Last night my wife and I stayed up until one in the morning to watch the London Olympics Opening Ceremony in its entirety on television. From the rural green and pleasant land of William Blake's poem Jerusalem to the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the "satanic mills" in the poem with its six furnace chimneys rising from the floor, to the onset of the swinging sixties, with Paul McCartney singing Come Together, followed by Hey Jude, Rowan Atkinson as the bumbling Mr Bean tapping at the single key as Vangelis' theme to the movie Chariots of Fire played on. Then the emphasis of the National Health Service, filling the arena with giant hospital beds each illuminated to give a spectacular sight with the acronym GOSH, as the young dancing patients at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children began to see their dreaded monsters of their nightmares come to life, only for the timely arrival of Mary Poppins to fly down from the sky with her open black umbrella to drive away the terrors. Even Her Royal Majesty the Queen dropped into the stadium from a helicopter hovering above, with the aid of a hesitating James Bond. Indeed, it really was the greatest show on Earth, carefully thought out and put together by Oscar winning director, Danny Boyle.

The chimneys of the "satanic mills" of Blake's Jerusalem rises from the floor of the Olympic Stadium.

Then, after the performance about Britain's history and culture, it was time to bring in the athletes in their national teams into the arena. Starting with Greece, from where the Olympics originated, each team entered the stadium in their country's name in alphabetical order. I was surprised at the number of nations I have not heard of, let alone knowing their geographical location! My heart went out to these small, almost obscure lands who can only send around four or five competitors to the Olympics, compared the the USA, for example, with several hundred. Finally, the greatest cheers went to Team Great Britain, being the hosts, were the last to enter, led by flag bearer Sir Chris Hoy.

Each team was led by a flag bearer representing their nation. How my heart was stirred to see all these different nations putting aside any dispute they may have between them in order to participate in the Games together. To see so many happy faces, smiling over the wonderful privilege to compete in such a tournament made me want to shed tears. Not tears of sorrow, but of joy. And behind each smile, behind every facial expression of the competitors was hiding a sense of nervousness. Every athlete in the stadium wanted to return home with a gold medal for both his or her country as well as for himself or herself. But everyone also knew that there were far, far fewer gold medals to go around than there were participants, but at least there were also two runner-up medals, silver and bronze. The competitor to be most pitied, in my mind, is the one who finishes fourth in the final.

Watching the Opening ceremony of the London Olympics warmed the cockles of my heart. But it has also brought into mind what it would be like in Heaven. Some time ago, a well-loved church member and devout Christian died of leukaemia without having a high number of years on his milometer. After the funeral, someone in the church had a kind of "vision" or picture of this fellow running as if in a race. The course twisted in turned, went uphill and down, was smooth in some places, had obstacles or was rough elsewhere, then suddenly, the path opened out to a vast stadium, every seating had a spectator who had ran the very same race himself, loudly cheering this guy as he sprinted towards the finish line. The entry into the stadium marked his physical death. In Heaven, the vast crowd of saints cheered him on as he completed the one lap. The thunder rose to high intensity as he crossed the finish line, into the arms of the Lord Jesus, who is to place a crown on his head.

The flag bearer of Team GB can be likened to the Lord Jesus Christ leading his saints home!

What a beautiful vision of electrifying joy! And furthermore, with the heavenly Olympics, there will be no Closing Ceremony to follow. The joy in Christ's victory over sin and death and our redemption will bring everlasting celebration and joy. As one song goes, we will praise God for a thousand years, then for evermore.

Paul the apostle was not unfamiliar with the Greek Olympics. He also used it as a model for Christian living. To the Philippian church, he gave this testimony:

I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 3:14.

And to the Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 12:1.

This brings us back to the heavenly stadium as well as the Olympic stadium in London, where athletes will compete for the prize of a gold medal, not only to the packed grandstand of spectators, but to the world at large through television.

Today I watched the men's road cycling race, covering a distance of 156 miles 250 km. I watched with excited emotion the line of cyclists pedalling with an all-out determination to win the race. Months, maybe years of hard, determined training had prepared them for this very event, the highlight of their lives. I watched as each rider craned his neck as forward as possible, pushing as hard as their energy permit on the pedals. Nothing got in their way because no one would dare get in the way. The same with the swimming event this evening. Each competitor had the gold medal in his sight, and no one would dare get in the way or try to slow them down.

We Christians should be like that. We have a heavenly crown in our sight. It is the prize worthy of our determination to live as holy as our spirits are capable of. If the cyclist and the swimmers won't allow anyone or anything to hinder them, so we should be the same against any potential adversary. And we have an enemy who, given the chance, would cause us to crash, just as one of the riders crashed into the barrier in today's race. With this in mind, James wrote an instruction for us -by drawing close to God, God will draw close to us, and by submitting to him, the devil will flee. (James 4:7-8.) I don't want to trip up any reader here. I'm not talking about salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God given to all who believe, through grace. In this context, I'm talking about rewards. In the Olympics, the gold medal is not given to every competitor. Instead it is given to the one who finished first, the result of good training, determination and the ability to win. We can do the same by allowing ourselves to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is given to all believers.

The next two weeks the London Olympics will dominate the Media. But it will all end with the closing ceremony. We are in a race that once finished, the celebration will go on forever.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Holidays At Last!

Or Vacations if you live in the USA. This weekend is often known as "The Big (or Great) Getaway" because all the schools across the nation had broken up for the summer. According to one newspaper report, nearly 500,000 travellers will pass through London Heathrow Airport this weekend - as sun-starved Britons fly south for two weeks of glorious weather after three months of rain and grey skies here in the UK.

Holidays are a time of fun, to relax, or to take a break from the "wind and tempest" of our daily responsibilities. Whether is relaxing on the beach with the turquoise sea lapping gently a couple of metres from your feet, or hiking up a mountain, such a change of environment certainly recharges the batteries in readiness to return to the normal routines of life. Or at least, that was the intention!

Then again, at the same time as our schools shut down, the Daily Mail newspaper carried a report that in 2011, more than 3,700 Brits were treated at a foreign casualty department, as a result of overindulgence of alcohol and drugs. Also during the period 2011/2012, there were more than 6,200 British deaths, although this statistic included those who live overseas, ex-pats whom many were senior citizens who have moved overseas to enjoy their retirement in the sun. But that does not rule out the chance that any young person jetting out for a wild booze up will return home in a coffin. And excess alcohol and drug intake seems to be the motive primarily for the Club 18-30 age group, who fly to the Mediterranean island of Ibiza for alcohol-fuelled overnight parties. As a result, also during the same period, over 6,000 young British holidaymakers were arrested and had to swap their hotel suite for a prison cell. Tanked up carelessness, I believe, was also behind the majority of the loss or theft of 28,569 passports. Little wonder that the rest of the world takes a very dim view of British tourists, according to the Media.

As an unmarried Christian prior to 1999, I regularly attended singles after-church meetings on Sunday evenings. These were informal meetings over coffee, at the home of anyone who was willing to host. I opened the door of my apartment several times during those days. Even after our wedding, I still attended for several months after. Holidays were a favourite topic of discussion. Generally, the vast majority of Christians, single in particular, go with a very popular British Christian holiday group, Oak Hall, which is based in Kent. Here, Christians can have fun without the party spirit and excess booze-ups. But the company does not cater just for the singles. A number of married couples as well as families holiday with them. They have prayer meetings and Bible teaching mixed in with the fun. Also talked about was MasterSun, a posh version of Oak Hall. MasterSun catered for Christians with money and class, and I knew of one or two graduates who flew out with this company. However, some years ago MasterSun went out of business, but recently resurrected itself under a new name.

In preparation for this article, I browsed this holiday website. A ten day trip to Israel, for example, including departure from London Heathrow and arriving back again, the cost was on the approach to £1,000 per person, not including flights. I thought "Wow!"  Then if you are the one for personal privacy, then add £200 single supplement. It was a fully escorted tour including prayer and Bible study. Really, the very fact that all places were taken for the summer season shows their strong popularity. There is nothing wrong with any of this. Nearly all, if not all, Western Christians setting foot in the Holy Land seem to do so in a group. But furthermore, it looks to me that independent backpacking is a sin. There is hardly a Christian I know who can share this experience.

I spent weeks in the Holy land for just a fraction of the price. In Jerusalem, I stayed at a small backpackers hostel in the heart of the Old City. The main dormitory was housed in a medieval room with a domed ceiling. Here I was really tasting a bit of history. Just for a few Shekels a night. I shared a tiny communal kitchen with other backpackers. One evening, I found myself talking with one from South Africa. He asked me what I was doing in Israel, and why I came here. Gosh, what an opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ with an unbeliever! When I finished talking, I looked up, only to see the entire room full of faces listening in to what I was saying.

The Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, taken in 1993.

And this is precisely why I believe that there is something unreal about Christian holidays. The incredibly cliquey attitude, as if safety in numbers gives the necessary protection against predators!

Throughout my lifetime, God has blessed me richly with travel adventures. Furthermore, as a lone backpacker, I was fully protected by God himself. No matter what situation I found myself in, or even poor choices or bad decisions taken, the love of Jesus Christ still sustained me. Like the time I needed to make my way to the Greyhound Bus Station in Los Angeles, which involved a walk through a rough estate. I prayed and trusted in the Lord that I wouldn't attract attention. I arrived at the terminal in fine form, from which I boarded a bus bound for San Francisco. Or while in Jerusalem, I found myself in the thick of an Israeli demonstration against the Palestinian's proposal to make East Jerusalem their headquarters. It was an incredible experience, with the burning of Palestinian flags in front of TV cameras, which were just about everywhere. Or that time in Phoenix, Arizona. Here, at another backpackers hostel, I found myself sharing the love of Jesus Christ to a couple of Jewish travellers, with the proprietor in the lounge with us. Afterwards, the owner asked me to take charge of the hostel, for she had to go out that evening. So I was left to lock the doors and made sure all as well and secure. And that was my first of two nights there before taking the next Greyhound bus to San Diego.

One of the greatest advantages of independent travel is that if you particularly like the location you arrived at, you can spend as much time as you want, without the strict time restriction imposed by a tour leader, escort or ranger. One excellent example is the Grand Canyon. When I arrived there in 1995, I was free to spend as much time as I needed. So I spent four days and three nights, part of this taken by hiking to the bottom and back up, a feat which meant a night at a campsite close to the gentle flowing Bright Angel Creek which joined the main Colorado River nearby. As I looked up, I saw the clear night sky in a way I had never seen in the UK. Countless stars visible through the pristine air in and over the Canyon, which were invisible elsewhere.

Just below South Rim of the Grand Canyon, 1995.

As I once explained to a friend one evening at a pub, the advantage of soaking in a particular location is to allow the land to speak to you. Like this, by my prolonged stay in the Holy Land, I was able to watch how the Jews and the Palestinians actually live side by side on a day-to-day basis. Learning about foreign cultures by daily experience and interaction. And still visit all the important, historical and Biblical sites by having a guidebook. In Israel, most of these sites are accessible by public transport, mainly buses, but taxis and sheruts (communal taxis where the fare is shared between up to six passengers) are easily available. And learning how to be polite but firm in refusing a shopkeeper's begging to step in and "just look around," or someone insisting on commentating over a particular site for a fee. These personal approaches happen all the time to a lone tourist in Jerusalem.

Or the magnificent Grand Canyon or the mighty Niagara Falls in Canada, both spectacular wonders in God's creation. One remarkable characteristic about the Grand Canyon was that three different colours stood out: the white limestone layer, the red sandstone cliffs and the green vegetation growing inside the Canyon. It looks to me that in the Bible, White, Red and Green are the three most important colours. White represents the purity of God, green his creation and red his redemption. And those three are prominent in the Canyon. The power of God! Thus, by staying a while at the site, this was another example where I allowed the land to speak to me.

For many Brits, the holiday (or vacation) is just one big booze party. There are consequences of this, as already mentioned above. But on the other hand, it can also be the perfect occasion for you to get close to God, allowing him to reveal to you his great power and glory through his work in creation, a time to meditate and reflect, as well as to rest and have fun. It is also a good time to share the love of Christ to others if the opportunity arises.

Having fun is not sinful. A ride on a roller coaster can be a daring challenge, as with avoiding the collisions at a bumper-car track. A fun fair provides many a good laugh. And not to mention swimming in the sea, snorkeling or diving over the corals, or just building sandcastles with the children, enjoying an ice cream.

To me, taking the aeroplane just for a big booze up and risking jail at the same time...I think I have far better things to do with my hard-earned cash.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Oh, To Fly Like A Bird...

A very close friend of mine recently flew to New York to visit for a week and to explore the city.   After he had returned, I called round to his home and asked him what was the U.S. border control like. He replied that this time he found it easier to get through than at previous times, but he still had to have his fingerprints scanned, along with his eyes scanned as well. He was then interrogated on what was his purpose for the visit and where he would be staying. Pretty intrusive stuff! If this was one of the easier occasions, I hate to think what he would have had to go through on a particular difficult one.

This is the Passport Security one now faces ever since 9/11. In my day, I did not have such a level of interrogation when I entered the USA. That was because I travelled during my bachelor days, before I married in 1999, two years before the World Trade Center was hit. But nevertheless, I have been randomly picked out by Border Control in 1997, when I arrived at Los Angeles Airport from Sydney. At Customs my rucksack was emptied out. When my Bible fell out with all the other items, the female officer became rather apologetic, and told me to re-pack and move on.

Perhaps a long haired, unshaven male in casual clothing, who had spent a sleepless night flying over the Pacific Ocean, would raise greater suspicion among immigration officers than a clean-shaven businessman in suit and tie. The same happened when I entered Australia at Cairns six weeks earlier. The only difference was that my baggage passed through a scanner, while everyone else on that flight from Singapore passed through Arrivals easily and I was alone at the small airport with two officers who, surprisingly enough, apologised for messing me about. I replied that if the Government paid me to do their job, I would have done the same.

Then there's that almost frightening moment when the Passport officer took my document, but instead of stamping the entry visa on a blank page, he starts to play around with it, flicking the pages back and forth and looking casually on. Then, as if on an afterthought, gives the passport to his companion who stamps the entry visa before handing the document back to me. Although I did not realise it then, it was a tactic to see how I would have reacted. If I had something to hide, they would suspect and escort me to the interrogation room. But a look of anxiety, wondering if I was about to be put on a flight home was enough for them to clear me through. They were highly trained for this sort of thing.

So goes the world of international travel, of which I'm still a fanatic. But as I ponder on these things, I find it rather ironic that we, the human species whom God created to be the pinnacle of all his creation, should suffer such intrusion from the authorities whenever we decide to step on to foreign soil. Then I think of the Artic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) - a rather small bird but with the amazing capacity to fly annually from Pole to Pole to stay with the ever-moving summer season.

The feet of the bird can land on any foreign soil as it pleases, and not a single human would approach to ask of proof of identity! No passports for them, no expensive air tickets, check-in queues, immune jabs, customs, currency exchange and all else which seem to be deviously designed to deter, demotivate or kill any desire for travel. Perhaps not for nothing had God made us without wings.

And our desire for travel isn't confined to the present generation. Some three thousand years ago, King David had just that desire. In Psalm 55 he wrote:

Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and to be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
Verses 6-8 KJV.

Although David was only expressing his desires, through him the Holy Spirit was making an accurate prophecy. We today do fly away to be at rest, far from home, away from the "windy storm and tempest" which comes with our daily responsibilities. Although we don't have wings of our own, we are willing to pay a large sum of money to "put on" so to speak, wings in the form of modern aviation. In this way, we are a far better off generation than those of our fathers.

Indeed we are! For me, nothing is so exhilarating than to sit by the window of an airline, soaring high above the clouds and looking down at the striking beauty of the landscape, the mountains, the contrast of coastline against the sea as the latter reflects the sunlight back to the sky, and the diverse forms of civilisation. By his loving grace, God has given me such opportunities, particularly in my bachelor days.

The Coastline of Kent, UK, after take off from London Gatwick Airport, 2011.

After the chat with my friend at his house, I got round to reading the 15th chapter of Paul's first letter to the Church in Corinth. Here Paul was settling the question the church as asking - will there be a resurrection of the body? There were some in the church who were following the teaching of the Sadducees, that there is no resurrection. In reply, Paul stressed that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus Christ wasn't resurrected either. If that had been the case, then they are still in their sins and their faith is futile. This has got me to ponder, what is the body resurrected like? And where is the connection between this and international travel?

The connection lies with the ability of our new bodies having the freedom to travel anywhere without any intrusion or restrictions imposed. In I John 3:2 we are told that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. If our future spiritual bodies will have all the properties of that of the risen Lord, then to get an idea of what we would be like, we only need to look at what Jesus was capable of doing after his resurrection.

One of his abilities was to pass through a closed door, John 20:19, 26. John made it clear that when the disciples had locked themselves in a room due to fear of the Jews, Jesus suddenly appeared to them twice, the second time to convince Thomas. In Luke's version, the disciples were first afraid of a ghost making an appearance, Luke 24:36-43. Not only did the Lord identify himself by the nail marks on his body, but he also demonstrated his ability to eat solid food. This is also backed up in John's version when the disciples had returned to their former occupations up north along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After a big catch, all sat for breakfast on the beach with a campfire in their midst. No doubt, Jesus was eating his share as he reinstated Peter and instructed them to return to Jerusalem to await the power of the Holy Spirit (John 21).

Finally, the new body of Jesus was able to defy gravity. This is demonstrated in Acts 1, where Jesus was taken up to Heaven in full view of his disciples. No propulsion there, he just floated up until caught in a cloud. This is how we will be like, the ability to fly without gravity or aerodynamic resistance. As a fan of Superman, I always have been intrigued on how this comic character was able to take off and fly with absolutely no air or jet propulsion, in complete defiance of all known physics. But our spiritual bodies will be able to defy gravity, and this is endorsed in both 1 Corinthians 15: 51-55 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Both sets of verses indicate a sudden transformation of the body - those who have already died in Christ to rise first, then those who are still alive will be instantly transformed to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be escorted to Heaven to face first, the Judgement seat, a rostrum for dishing out rewards for Christian living, followed by the Holy Communion in Heaven - a demonstration that it was the death of Christ crucified that had saved us all in the first place, and not any works we have done ourselves.

Our eternal home, I believe, will be the New Jerusalem, a city some 1,500 miles square, giving us an area 2,250,000 square miles (Revelation 21, 22:1-6.) In our new bodies, it looks apparent that we can get to one side of the city to the other instantly. There will be no gravity or aerodynamic resistance, neither the need for the sun or the moon to shine, as God Almighty will be its light. The city will sit upon a new Earth, to anywhere we can travel and arrive at our destination instantly. Within the city will flow a river, which on each side will be trees bearing fruit on a monthly basis. This looks like if we will be able to eat the fruit, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, but whether this is more for pleasure than nutritional subsistence - we can't be sure unless the spiritual body does need a level of nutritional intake. Was the resurrected Jesus really hungry when his disciples gave him a piece of cooked fish?

What a wonderful demonstration of the love and grace of God! We were born with a sinful nature within us, which separated us from God, who is pure and holy. God cannot abide with sin. But in his love he sent his Son to die to atone for our sins. All of us who truly believe will spend eternity in that fabulous city for ever.

No passports, no check-in queues, no heavy baggage, no security checks, no expensive air tickets, no threat of industrial action, no delays, no headaches. Just unlimited travel with the euphoric pleasure of praising God for all eternity.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Eternal Security? It's In The Genes

The church service had not been running long. You are singing the first verse of a traditional four-verse hymn. Suddenly you hear a slight scuffle three or four rows behind, to your left. Curiosity at the intruding noise causes you to turn around, only to see a strikingly beautiful, curvaceous young woman, in modest dress, just arriving to settle at her seat. Perhaps with a slight tinge of frustration over her full body cover, you mentally undress her, and imagine how she would look in a bikini. Suddenly your eyes and hers meet for a fleeting moment and you immediately turn to face forward, and you sing the remainder of the hymn with a much louder tone of voice than at first.

Four different views are put forward to explain this incident, the first one positive.

The first is what the evolutionist would explain as a healthy sign for the survival of the human species. According to him, you should feel elated over your red-blooded sexual desire. After all, this was what Charles Darwin was writing about concerning Natural Selection, nature's way to ensure that mankind still have a future.

But the next two are rather less positive. If the church you are in is a Roman Catholic church, then deep inside you will be fearful, despite your loud singing. Would this sin committed be a venial sin or a mortal sin? If venial, then this would add an unspecific time to your duration in Purgatory. A few minutes? Unlikely. More likely a few years, even centuries. Nobody knows, not even the highest echelons of the clergy. But if the sin was a mortal one, according the the Catholic Catechism, it would mean eternity in Hell. Even then the clergy would not be able to tell whether that particular act was a venial or mortal sin. But the safest remedy would be to confess to a priest next time the Confessional is open, and receive the Penance, a course of specific prayers and good works to restore the grace of God in your soul. So you better pray that you won't die before the Confessional opens, or else you will be in deep trouble!

If, on the other hand, your church holds to the Arminian view of salvation, then you still have cause for fear. Such a church is Protestant, but believe that your salvation can be lost if you commit certain sins, or fail to overcome your sinful nature, or to lose faith. As with the Catholic church, no one really knows just where the line is drawn, but if you believe that you are still saved, then you better watch out, because your salvation is teetering on the brink. Otherwise you need to confess to God on how you mentally undressed that woman in order to get your salvation restored, and promise not to do it again, as in the Catholic church.

But whether you are Roman Catholic or an Arminian Protestant, despite your efforts in restoration, you know deep inside that such restoration won't last. After all, you have a strong sex drive which could ignite at any time, especially if, like this morning, you weren't expecting it to happen. Then, on the other hand, the thought of losing your libido is a very serious threat to your manhood. You actually want to remain red-blooded - it's a natural attribute to your self esteem, vital for the species to continue, according to Darwin.

So you are squeezed into a corner, with one side telling you that your sex drive is not only vital to life, but also to your self esteem. Then the other side threatening you with hellfire if you indulge in its pleasure except strictly in the confines of marriage. Little wonder that such trains of thought quickly leads to liberalism and eventually atheism. Darwinism appeals strongly to liberalism, which says that the Bible is not the authoritative Word of God but fables written by men to teach, to a certain extent, morality. Instead, Darwin explains the scientific view which sets us free from any ideas of accountability to a fickle God for our peculiar state of behaviour. Conversely, left to themselves, Roman Catholic and Arminian Sotorology has done a tremendous amount of harm over the past centuries of church history.

Just prior to writing this blog, I was browsing "Eternal Security" on Google. Right up among the top of the page was various websites linked to Daniel Corner, a radical Arminian who has spent a lot of time and effort debunking Eternal Security, or Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) - founder and director of Evangelical Outreach as well as author of an 800+ page book, The Believer's Conditional Security. I have read about Corner before, and I mistakenly thought that his church was based in Washington DC, but further investigation showed that he leads a church in Washington, Pennsylvania - a smaller town just south of the city of Pittsburgh. There was even an article written about Corner on when he met our Methodist author and preacher David Pawson, and concluded that the two Arminians did not like each other very much due to some differences in opinion on various matters!

Daniel Corner
Dan Corner is a former Roman Catholic who has repudiated much what is taught in Rome, including veneration to Mary, the Rosary, the Seven Sacraments and other Catholic doctrines. However, it is so ironic that Corner embraced Arminianism. The irony is that Arminianism originated from none other than the Vatican, in its stand against the doctrine of Sovereign grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In one of my former blogs, Once Saved Always Saved - How Did This Originate? published 10th April, 2011 - I gave a full description on the history of the debate. To summarise, James Arminius, a 16th Century Dutch theologian was, as a student, brought up to believe in the Sovereign Grace of God advocated by John Calvin. But feeling uncomfortable with such doctrine, he travelled to Rome, where he became a student of Luis De Molina, a Spanish monk who was also a Jesuit. The Jesuits themselves were a society founded by a Catholic priest, Ignatus Loyola, who at first had an occult  vision of the Virgin Mary telling him to fight and put out the "Babylonian whores," referring to the new Protestants formed by Martin Luther and John Calvin respectively. As a result of Jesuit Molina's teaching, Arminius wrote his own treatise, A Reconciliation of Free Choice With the Gift of Grace, Divine Foreknowledge, Providence and Reprobation. (1588)

This book became standard for many Protestant churches, particularly Methodism, the Anglican Church, the Pentecostals, the Assembly of God and others. Arminianism is the branch of Roman Catholicism which has also found a home in all other groups - the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Unitarian and even Freemasonry - despite all denying any links to the teaching of the Vatican. On a wider scale, the idea of working for an uncertain salvation prevails in all other religions - including atheism. Here lies the irony of Dan Corner repudiating Roman Catholicism, yet strongly proclaiming the arm of the Vatican used to weaken the tenets of Protestant Christianity.

So as it is fair to say that Arminianism - the teaching that a believer can lose his salvation by not holding faithful or by committing certain sins - has its roots in the Occult (Loyola's vision). So far we have not looked at the fourth conclusion of the sin committed above, a look at a few examples of Eternal Security found, yes, in the Old Testament.

Our God is eternally Omniscient. This means that there is nothing he does not know about. He cannot be taken by surprise, and everything, yes, absolutely everything, about us was known, and will be known by God long, long before we were even born. So when we believed on the Son of God, we were saved once and for evermore. There is no possibility of ever losing our salvation - or else we be denying God's omniscience - a form of blasphemy!

So what happened when you mentally undressed the other person? Did you sin? Yes. Did you lose your salvation, or was it teetering on the brink? No, of course not. Instead the sin was laid upon the Cross of Jesus Christ. We sin every day, to the greater or lesser extent. But every sin committed is laid at the Cross. It will be an ongoing thing until the end of time.

In the Old Testament, we read of the exactly the same happening, the only difference was that the sin committed was carried into the future to the Cross which was yet to happen. One good example of this was the righteousness of God imputed to Abraham. (Genesis 15:6 with Romans 4:1-3) The Cross atoned for Abraham's sins some two thousand years before the Crucifixion.

Another case, even more specific, applied to King David after committing adultery with Bathsheba along with his conspiracy to have her husband Uriah murdered. When Nathan the prophet came to confront David with his sin, the King confessed, "I have sinned against the Lord." To which Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die." (2 Samuel 12:13.) Where had God taken David's sin? To the Cross of Christ. In Psalm 51:12, David, reflecting on his grave sins, asks God to restore to him the joy of his salvation, not salvation itself.

On another instance with King David was when he had his army of fighting men numbered. God passed judgement on the king as a result (1 Chronicles 21.) In verse 15 we read that while God was about to execute the men in Jerusalem, he saw, and told the angel to stay his hand. What was it that God had seen? The Cross of Christ. Apparently, all those in Jerusalem and beyond had their sins transferred to the Cross instead of suffering the consequence of David's sin.

When Jesus died, he died on a cross. A cross has a stem and two arms. One symbol of the two arms of the cross is that they each represent time. One arm points to the past, the other to the future. The two arms can also represent Israel and the Church. However, the sins of every believer from Adam to the end of time has been put on the Cross of Jesus Christ. It was, and is, and will always be, the plan of salvation God already knew about, right down to the very last believing person, before the beginning of time.

If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, you are eternally saved, and you will never lose your salvation. When you die, the Lord will welcome you home with open arms.

Here is the beauty of God's character, his boundless love, his unlimited glory. Eternal Security is in the very heart of God, so to speak, it is in his genes. You are a gift given to the Son from the Father as a reward for atoning for your sins. To say that you can lose your salvation is blasphemy, because it would be the same as saying that God screws up, or he does not know what is going to happen next.

Arminianism is a false gospel with its origin in the occult. It should be repudiated, for it brings no glory to God, only fear to those who believe in it.

As for the beautiful woman in the church, take your eyes off her and set them on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of you faith. For he can satisfy you in a much richer way than any human being can do.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Yes, I Believe In Eternal Security!

Vera was an elderly lady who sat alone in a corner at a pub (bar) as she had for the last ten years. She was in her mid-sixties, lonely, with nobody ever approaching her to ask how she was. One evening, a young woman named Doreen approached and sat at her table. After handing out a tract to her, they engaged in conversation, with Doreen gently telling the senior citizen how much Jesus loves her.

"I sat here every evening since my husband died and nobody had ever spoken to me," was her response.

When Doreen offered to escort her home, Vera's eyes lit up and asked, "Will you? And stay to have a cup of tea with me?"

The two made their way to Vera's little house and over a cup of tea, Doreen introduced her to Jesus Christ. Both fell to their knees and Vera gave herself to Jesus that very night.

A few days later, Doreen returned to visit her elderly friend.
"I'll never need to go back to the pub again." Vera said as her face shone with joy. "Instead I'll get my comfort from the Bible you gave me. I'm now ready to meet my Maker."

True to her word, Vera was never seen in the pub again. A week later she died peacefully in her sleep and had gone to Glory.

(Adapted from Doreen Irvine, From Witchcraft to Christ, Concordia, 1973.)

The above is a true story. It took place in Bristol not long after the end of World War II. But it is also a story which has a lot of truth crammed into it. It tells how God loves sinners and his heart goes out for them to be saved. It also has no regard to the person's age. She recieved Christ within the last few days of her entire life. All her sins were forgiven. Neither was she baptised in water. Nor was she warned that she must stay faithful and not sin, or else she would lose her salvation. Instead we see Jesus, warmly embracing her the moment she gave herself to his redemption, and shortly afterward escorted her home to the glories of Heaven, with no particular works done other than to find comfort in the Bible. On top of this, her refusal to return to the pub had nothing to do with fear of punishment or losing her salvation. Instead it had everything to do with finding a greater source of personal joy and satisfaction in the Bible. That is the grace of God.

Vera's face was radiant with joy when Doreen returned to visit her. Does this mean that, because she was not baptised in water, that she went to Hell after her death? Just to ask such a question exposes the sheer foolishness of the theory! Yes, Jesus did say that he who believes and is baptised will be saved, and Peter endorses this with the exortation, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
(Mark 16:16 with Acts 2:38.) I do believe that every believer should be baptised in water after conversion. I was baptised myself, and I remember this as being an exhilerating experience. But to say that conversion without baptism is void and that salvation is forfeitable, looks to me as putting a limit to God's power to save as well as a serious flaw in God's character. God's grace is much greater than many churchmen would believe.

The heart of God is to save sinners, to give them eternal life which include everlasting fellowship with him in his presence. But we as Christians have imposed conditions over the centuries which had clouded God's love for us with the fact that God is so holy, that he cannot have anyone tainted with sin in his presence, and therefore the need to be shut out from his presence to a lost eternity - unless we believe in and do certain things.

The Bible teaches two attributes of God. The first one is that he is perfect, holy and totally repulsed by any sin, and anyone tainted with sin. The other attribute is that God is a loving being, that he loves us so much that his heart's desire is to have us - mankind - to share in the pure, glorious love that eternally existed between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is rather like what I call, The Impossible Object. Although it looks fine drawn on paper, it is impossible for it to be manufactured and exist as a solid. Simply because to two ends of the object are incompatable with each other.

That is how God is to us, and Christian believers have been wrestling with this for nearly two millennia. To get a clearer idea to what sin is really all about, we only need to look on what Jesus taught about it during his ministry.

In Matthew's Gospel, we have Jesus telling us that we only need to look at a woman with a lustful eye, and we have committed adultery with her in our hearts (5:28.) And he also said that to call someone a prat, so to speak, is guilty of murder (5:21-22.) And James adds that snobbery and favouritism is equated with murder as well (James 2:11.) So if thoughts and motives alienates us from God, indeed we have a problem. Only through the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ can such an impossible object exist.

And that is the whole purpose of God's grace, accomplished through the Atonement made by Jesus Christ. I wonder on how intense the love of the Father and of the Spirit have for the Son, and the prospect of severance must have been like for the Godhead.  When Jesus hung on that cross, his body crushed with agonising pain, how did this look to the Father? And for the first time in eternity, had to look away, as the sin of the whole world was poured onto him.

The extent of the Father's grace was, and will always be, to reward his Son for laying down his life for us. In John 17, we see Jesus interceding with his Father for all believers. He emphasised his possession of all believers as a gift to him from his Father as a reward for laying down his life for them (John 17:6-7, 9-10. Also 10:27-30.) This is a fulfillment of what the prophet Isaiah wrote:

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great (or many), and he will divide the spoils with the strong (numerous), because he poured out his life unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:12.

Eternal Security of the believer is an essential part of the Gospel, and believing in it makes an impact to the Christian life. One thing it does not do, and it is so important to realise, that I emphasise:
Believing in Eternal Security of the Believer does not encourage the Christian to sin willingly! Instead, accepting such doctrine would help and encourage victory over sin.

Christians who believe that one can lose his salvation by falling away from the faith or by committing a serious sin, or a number of serious sins, are often known as Arminians, because this idea was endorsed by James Arminius, a 16th Century Dutch theologian who insisted on human choice over Sovereignty of God.  Arminianism is taught widely in many Protestant churches, and it is really a cross between Roman Catholicism with its seven sacraments for salvation, and the Reformation with its emphasis on being saved by faith in Christ only. Arminian Christians believe that Eternal Security is "the doctrine of devils." But as one blogger on this site has put it, wrote that all religions embrace the "Arminian" view of a forfeit-able salvation, from John Wesley's Methodism to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. It is true that only a small section of the Protestant faith believe in Eternal Security, if so, then this does not bare well for the Devil, who, according to the Lord Jesus, is the ruler of the whole world.

But the real problem with Arminius's conditional salvation was unwittingly exposed by a British author, Methodist David Pawson, considered a modern-day prophet by many Christians due to his good schooling. He recommended keeping accounts of sins committed and making sure that they are remembered and confessed. This is little more than Roman Catholicism, except that the confession is made directly to God instead of to a priest inside a confessional box. And here is the crunch which reveals the flaws of Arminianism. Can you as a believer can really be true to yourself and declare that you never lusted after a woman? And if you did, did you immediately confess? Or did you just forget about it? And what about when that person winds you up the wrong way? You shouted, "Idiot!" or some other name. Or do you, as a university graduate, feel superior to your neighbour who holds a manual occupation? With this train of belief, little wonder that God is seen as implacable, and despite your belief in "faith only" - you really have to work hard to stay saved and to keep your salvation. It is just the right recipe for liberalism and eventually atheism.

The belief of Eternal Security has been the fruit of my experience. After a bad experience with Christians back in 1994, I too renounced Christ and the Christian faith. I was in Israel at the time, and I found myself lying on the bed at a backpackers hostel, empty of people, in the middle of the day, while the souk outside within the walls of Jerusalem Old City was alive and bustling. I felt wretched and miserable, a victim of poor evaluation by other Christians for not being well educated and not holding a profession. Some months later, an Arminian Christian named John asked me if the Lord was bidding me to return to him with a threatening attitude, or else suffer the consequence of eternal death. I told him not so, but I felt the Lord calling me very, very gently, and I felt his love. Gradually, I came round and began to rebuild my faith. Such as the belief in Eternal Security!

The character and the ways of God are like the Impossible Object. The truth is there is nothing we can do to "correct" the matter! Salvation is given as a free gift to all who believe. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished it, and all we can do is to receive it. And because salvation is of God, and not of ourselves, there is nothing we can do to hold on to it, but to revel in it and bring honour to the One who gave it.

Glory to God, his ways are unsearchable!