Pastor's Meditations

Preservation or Perseverance?

                A few weeks ago, I addressed the theme of the assurance of our salvation in one of the sermons in the book of Colossians. In chapter 1 verse 23 the apostle admonishes the church to persevere in the faith:

                “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

                As I mentioned in the message, this exhortation in no way teaches that we are responsible to earn, keep or maintain our saved status by our good works or holy behavior. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and this salvation and even the faith we have comes from God.

                It was the same apostle who taught us that our salvation and indeed, our very faith depend on God, because it comes from Him. Jesus is not only the Object of our faith, but He is also the originator and the cause of our salvation.

                “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)

                     “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

                The Bible also declares that, “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) or to put it in other words, salvation and faith comes from the Lord and there is nothing you or I can do to earn it or keep it. The Bible also declares that we are kept by God’s power (1 Peter 1:5) and that we are safe in his powerful hands (John 10:28-30).

                This is what is known as the Preservation of our faith and salvation in Christ.

                On the other hand, we are encouraged in the Bible to continue in the ways of the Lord. We are commanded to walk with Him, to preach the Bible, to live in holiness, to serve our Savior, to love God and each other and to read, study and obey all that we learn from God’s Word.

                We are also commanded to grow and mature as Christians. The faith that we have received in Christ must be nurtured, developed and activated. We must live what we believe. We must never work to attain or maintain our salvation, but we must submit to God and see his salvation working in and through us, or as the apostle says:

                “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)

                This is what is known as Perseverance of the saints

                Let us then persevere, but not in fear but because we are preserved by the mighty hands of God until the day when we will see Christ face to face.

                A. G

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Reach Out or Reach Down?

                Lately I have been thinking a lot about reaching out to our church neighbors and invite them to our church services. My plan is simple: Go out on Saturday mornings around the neighborhood and talk to them about Christ and our church.

                I pray that we will be successful and that many will join our church either as first time believers or as mature Christians seeking a Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church. I also pray that at least some of our church members will join me in this outreach effort.

                Most churches engage in some form of outreach or another. Vacation Bible Schools, Block Parties, Yard Sales, Potluck Meals, Free Clinics, Movie or Concert Nights, Sport Tournaments, Super Bowl Parties, Halloween Festivals, Back to School Events, Recovery Groups, Car Washes, English Classes, Food Pantries and don’t forget Bingo Nights in Roman Catholic churches.

                I think that sometimes we confuse reaching out to unbelievers with the Gospel of Christ with reaching “down” to the world. We have watered down the Gospel message in many churches in America and the world. Our church buildings have become hosts of every imaginable kind of event under the sun, while the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word is neglected.

                Reaching down to the world does not work. What usually happens when we lower our standards in order to “win” others to Christ is that we lose our clear Christian testimony and the lost continue to be lost. A watered down Gospel does not save anybody, but it sure fills the hearts of millions with false hopes.

                There are very few Christian radio stations; they are now only playing “positive hits” about having a better life. The name of Jesus is rarely mentioned (unless they are asking for money in one of their “Share-a-Thons” fundraisers) and there is no Bible teaching programs. And yet, they do all this to reach others for Christ.

                The “Christ” of the water-down, prosperity, down to earth “gospel” is very easy to reach. This false Jesus appeals to almost everybody because He doesn’t make any demands. You just need to come to him. No repentance is needed. No mention of his blood sacrifice. No deep Bible study and no calls to be dedicated disciples and servants.

                Anyone can be a “Christian” like that.

                No wonder all these mega-churches are filled with so-called believers. This is the reach-down gospel at work. This false gospel has removed anything that might be offensive to unbelievers. Their churches (if they can be called that!) are centers of entertainment and secular fellowship.

                Meanwhile, churches that preach and teach the true Gospel suffer from lack of attendance and spiritual apathy from some members. I prefer to be a part of a “boring” church that preaches the Gospel than to attend a big church with many empty programs and ministries.

                A. G.

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“Spanglish”

                “Te gusta to go to the iglesia?”

                “Do you like ir a la church?”

                The phrases above all mean the same thing (find out the meaning if you can) and are a clear example of a hybrid language that is spoken all the time by bilingual people in Miami and other cosmopolitan cities: “Spanglish.”

                “Spanglish” was also the name of a popular romantic movie in 2004. In this film a married American man falls in love with the Hispanic maid/nanny, but he and his wife chose to remain together, which is the right and biblical thing to do.

                Mixing races, cultures and languages in a marriage is challenging, but not sinful. A marriage between a believer and an unbeliever (even from the same race, nationality and social class) is not only a bad idea, but it is also a grave sin and so it is getting mixed up in extramarital affairs.

                The children of God are called to walk faithfully with Christ, but we are sometimes guilty of spiritual “Spanglish” which is a mixture of darkness and light. There are many examples of spiritual “Spanglish” in the Bible and in the practical life of many contemporary Christians.

                We see this kind of “Spanglish” in Adam and Eve: They attempted to serve God and to fall into sin at the same time. The same happened to King David, to some prophets, to the apostle Peter and to many others.

                The Bible tells us that we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13)

                The Bible also tells that there is only one God and that only He must be worshipped:

                “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)

                 We must have only one love, which is God. Therefore we are commanded by the apostle John,

                    Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15, 16)

                “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

                Let us speak only one language: The language of heaven.

                A. G.

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“Waiting”

                Right now I’m waiting outside the store where my wife and mother in law are shopping. I have been waiting for a while now and by the looks of it, it seems that I’ll be waiting for a long time.

                I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy waiting for anyone. Everywhere we go there is waiting involved. We must wait at a doctor’s office, at the store or super market, at restaurants and even in our jobs, as we patiently wait for the hour in which we get to go home.

                What are you waiting for?

                Perhaps you are waiting for a new job, a new home, a new car or for a new love in your life (if you are single). On the other hand, you might be waiting for a new baby to arrive or for the results of your latest test (medical or academic).

                “Good things come to those who wait”, so the saying goes. Waiting is a lost art in our instant gratification society. We don’t want to wait. We don’t want things today or tomorrow…we want everything and we want it yesterday!

                As Christians, we are admonished to wait on the Lord

                “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14)

                “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7)

            Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)

                Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23)

                The children of this world wait for nobody. They do not save for the future and are slaves of credit (loans and credit cards) in order to live the “American Dream” today.

                The children of God are saved by grace and they give all credit (glory and honor) to Jesus. We might never achieve riches and fame in this world, but we are confident in Christ that heaven will be our eternal home and that is worth “All” the wait!

                 A. G.

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“Happy New Year?”

                The New Year is here. It is a new beginning for some and more of the same for most. The hype and excitement of this New Year, will quickly wear off in the next few days or weeks.

                “Happy New Year!”

                We often say this phrase to each other at midnight on December 31st. most of us probably believe (or want to believe) that this “magical” phrase will somehow transport us to a land of fairies and elves, where everyone is happy all the time.

                Is it biblical to wish everyone a happy new year? Does God want you to be happy all the time?

                To begin with, I don’t believe it is humanly possible to be always happy. Happiness is a human emotion and therefore it fluctuates. Our happiness is circumstantial; therefore we will not be able to be happy at all times (unless you are a robot, of course).

                I cannot be happy when I sin or make a mistake. I am not able to laugh hysterically when I am sick, amid problems and attacks or when I or someone close to me experiences failure or loss. In these and similar circumstances, no one is expected to be “happy” and full of laughter and smiles.               

                On the other hand, the Bible expects and even commands God’s children to be always joyful.

                Philippians 4:4 says:

                “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

                Joy is not based on any circumstance. We can be joyful at all times because joy is not a feeling or emotion, but as Theopedia defines it, it is: “…a state of mind and an orientation of the mind. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.”

                Joy is a confidence and assurance grounded in the finished work of Christ on the cross. We can be joyful even in hard times, knowing that God is with us in every situation and that He is in total control and has a plan for us even in our trials.

                James wrote about it:

                “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2, 3)

                Telling others, to have a “Happy New Year” is nice, but is not biblical, because it is impossible to have a full and happy year on this earth. Instead we should wish for them to have a blessed or joyful year, which is only possible for those that love and follow Jesus.

                I hope and pray that you have a year full of Jesus and all the blessings of his grace. I pray that you live in peace, joy, hope and love and that you also enjoy many happy days as you walk with your Lord.

                A. G.

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