Why do I feel guilty?

Welcome again to my blog. I am grateful you have taken the time to visit.

These last few weeks we have discussed our secure position before God as believers in Jesus Christ. These are powerful promises! Please review them if you have not read those blogs.

Our research has shown that Christians generally have better wellbeing and less depression than non-Christians. Why then are Christians known for feeling guilty? This week let us discuss the problem and next week we will discuss the solutions.

Teleios conducted 2 surveys: one at a major secular college campus and another in a well instructed evangelical church. Approximately 70% of participants in both surveys felt guilty! Fortunately, the level of guilt was mild.

All the causes of this affliction are not known. Indeed, in the church-based survey of adults the overwhelming reason for guilt was due to a believer thinking their current sin(s) had somehow separated them from God and hurt their relationship with Christ; they felt badly about it! In my experience, it is very common for almost every person I teach to have felt some level of guilt.

Why is this the case? Well we do not know all the causes but below are some potentials:

  • We inflict it on our selves
  • We induce it in each other

Some churches induce it through legalistic regulations. Indeed, one pastor once sheepishly told me it can be good for motivating people!

Why do Christians feel guilty? Our sins are forgiven! Can you name a verse in the Bible that says we should feel guilty? I certainly cannot.

An example I often tell my students is that I have studied Greek, the original language of the Bible, for 25 years. Until recently I did not even know the Greek word for ‘guilt’ despite all my studies! The Bible does just not discuss it!

Of course, because I told the story several times I learned of some examples. However, the few times it’s used is in the New Testament and it is not related to believers’ guilt. We are not to feel guilty!

The problem of guilt can be a big one because it:

  • Teaches a lie about God
  • Robs us of our joy of salvation
  • Captures our emotions in incorrect thinking and takes us away from positive role of the Christian life
  • Minimizes the actions of the church

So, what is the cure? Let’s discuss this next week. Thank you for joining me as always.

God’s own possession, what a marvelous promise

Welcome again to my blog. I am grateful you have taken the time to visit.

We’ve been discussing the results of personal salvation in Christ and why it might be associated with enhanced wellbeing. We have covered what happens at the time of salvation, as taught in the Bible, resulting in a steadfast new and wonderful position of a believer. This week let us discuss the great promise of our eternal possession by God.

The wonderful story of our being the possession of God starts in Exodus 19:5-6 when God told the Israelites that He intended them to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation and His peculiar possession. They failed in their commitment to God and sinned against Him. Therefore, they did not become a kingdom of priests or a holy nation. However, God will keep His promise to Israel that the nation would be His eternal possession (Psalm 89; Psalm 132:11-17; Romans 11:26-29).

As we know, the sin of Israel under the law was to show us our need for Christ (Galatians 3:24). He has come and died for our sins, that through Him, those who believe on his death on the cross by faith will have eternal life. As believers, God has enabled us to become a kingdom of priests, a holy nation and His peculiar possession (1 Peter 2:9).

How can Christians do this when the Israelis could not? It is because we have the Holy Spirit given to us as a seal to our redemption and to mark us as His eternal possession (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Christ noted that as His chosen, we are in His hands and cannot be removed. We are also in God’s hands and cannot be removed (John 10:28-30). Several other scriptures also note that we are God’s possession (1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 10:39).

We have in general, God’s promise that He will secure us in His power unto salvation (2 Timothy 1:12; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

We have covered many marvelous promises of our position as a believer that cannot be overturned, either because of legal, morphological reasons or through the direct power of God. These promises include: spiritual baptism, membership in the universal church, sealing by the Holy Spirit, adoption, justification, and now being made God’s possession.

Thank you for joining me this week and please come again next week as we continue to discuss the amazing power of God’s word in our lives.

Justification: Wow, we are legally without sin!

Welcome again to my blog. I am grateful you have taken the time to visit.

We recently began a series regarding the results of personal salvation in Christ and why it might be associated with enhanced wellbeing as found through our research. We have been describing what happens at the time of salvation, as taught in the Bible, resulting in a new and wonderful position for a believer.

This week let us discuss justification! There is no other more important result of Christ’s work on the cross than our justification by faith. Let’s examine in some detail the meaning of this great promise.

  • Meaning of the New Testament word – This word is vital because the complete meaning in Greek of the word, “justification” (δικαιος, dikaios) is not fully conveyed by the English. As you know, Greek is the original language of the New Testament. The word dikaios carried a legal meaning that still exists today in modern Greek. The word reflected then someone who was found innocent in a court of law of all charges against them. Just like now, in ancient times in the Greek and Roman world there was no double jeopardy. This important legal concept means once you have been found innocent you cannot be charged again for the same crime.
  • Christ’s work in justification – The Bible indicates that each of us has sinned and “fallen short” of what God requires of us (Romans 3:23). Because God is just, He demands punishment for our misdeeds. However, because He is loving, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment in our place (Romans 3:24-26).

It’s as though Christ acted as a courtroom judge and found us guilty of our sins and gave us the death sentence but afterwards, stood up, removed His judicial robe, came around in front of the judge’s bench and took the punishment for us. This satisfied God’s demand for righteousness but also showed His great and gracious love for us.

Importantly, Christ is a sufficient sacrifice for our sins as He is perfect, holy and without sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 7:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, Christ was a sufficient sacrifice to satisfy God’s judgment. Accordingly, He died once for all sin, for all time, and He does not need to do this again as did the Old Testament priests (Hebrews 6:1-14; Hebrews 10:10-18).

Our legal position before God was pronounced “innocent” when we trusted Christ for forgiveness of our sins. We do this only once and our sins are forgiven for all time. Since Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all our sins for all time, nobody can charge us again. There is no double jeopardy!

WOW! We are secure in our position before God. We can come to him boldly because there are no limits on our access after we believe and become a Christian (Hebrews 10:20-23). What a great promise we have in our justification!

Indeed, God has given us, as Christian believers, a marvelous salvation and a wonderful secure eternity with Him (Romans 10:9-10; 2 Peter 1:4-5). Come back again next week and we’ll complete this exciting overview of the results of our salvation.

We are adopted children

Welcome again to my blog. Thank you for visiting.

We have been discussing the results of personal salvation in Christ and why it might be associated with enhanced wellbeing. The current blog series is describing what happens, as taught in the Bible, at the time of salvation which results in wonderful changes for a believer. We have already discussed several fantastic promises associated with salvation. This week let us consider adoption, another marvelous biblical promise.

Adoption is important in our society because when a family legally adopts a child the new family member gains all the rights and privileges of a natural child. In other words, their new status in the family is permanent and cannot be overturned. What a great promise of security to the child!

Likewise, in the ancient Greek and Roman world, as in our own society (with some differences), adoption provided permanent legal status for a child that could not be overturned. The Apostle Paul states our status as adopted children into God’s family in four separate places in his epistles, indicating the importance of our new position as a believer following accepting Christ as Savior through faith (Romans 8:15 and 23; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:5). Consequently, we are children of God, adopted into His family with legal protection and a permanent status. What a great promise!

How interesting that Paul describes adoption as one of our positions before God as New Testament Christians. It was not an image used of Old Testament believers. Adoption apparently was not common in the Hebrew world and is noted only in the Old Testament three times, all occurring outside of Israel. God appeared to handle the issue of orphaned children in Israel by the use of a kinsman redeemer as provided in the Hebrew law.

Israel also is not noted to be adopted until Paul mentions it retroactively to the mixed audience of Greeks and the Jews in Rome (the Jews were probably Hellenized and so would relate to the image) to explain God’s relationship to Israel in the Old Testament (Romans 9:4).

Adoption is the fourth of the great promises of our position as a believer because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, resulting in either legal or morphological irreversible changes. These changes indicate our eternal security including: spiritual baptism, membership in the universal church, sealing by the Spirit and now adoption as children of God.

Indeed, God has given us a marvelous salvation and the promise of a wonderful secure eternity with Him (Romans 10:9-10). Come back again next week and we’ll talk about justification, a supposition from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As always, thank you for visiting.

Seal of Approval

Welcome again to my blog. Thank you for visiting.

We recently began discussing the results of personal salvation in Christ and why it might be associated with enhanced wellbeing as found through Teleios research. This blog series is describing what happens, as taught in the Bible, at the time of salvation resulting in a steadfast new and wonderful position of a believer. We have covered already several wonderful promises accompanying salvation. This week let us discuss the Spirit sealing, another fantastic biblical promise!

The Holy Spirit is often misunderstood, but He is a key component in our salvation, resulting position before God and subsequent Christian walk. At Salvation the Holy Spirit is given to us. This is a great promise and is a part of the results of our belief to salvation by faith alone in Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9). These are the main points to review about the Spirit at salvation. Read and enjoy!

  • Spiritual baptism – We discussed this great promise two weeks ago; that the Holy Spirit regenerates us to a new life in Christ, identifying us with His death and resurrection upon the cross. We are a new creature in Christ (Romans 6:2-9; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).
  • Entry into the church – The Spirit places us in the church universal through which serve Christ.
  • The Spirit sealing – This week we learn that the Holy Spirit at salvation is given to us as a seal unto the day of our redemption, the second coming of Christ, when we will live with him eternally (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Corinthians 5:5).

Fortunately, this seal is not talking about a cute aquatic mammal, but it is speaking of a secure seal to bind us to Christ. Seals were used in the ancient world as a legal means to close a document. If a king had created a new law or order, molten wax might be poured on the document to seal it and the king’s signet ring pressed into the wax. The king’s symbol in the wax would tell the carrier or the recipient that the contents of the document were the king’s will and breaking the seal inappropriately or ignoring the order was done at a person’s own peril.

We are sealed by our King and it reflects the same legal and unbreakable character as ancient law. Further, the Spirit seals us throughout our whole life on earth until we go home to heaven. Importantly, all those who believed by grace in Christ’s forgiveness on the cross are Christians and have the Spirit and the seal (Ephesians 2:8-9).

What great promises we possess as believers in Christ with a position so eternally secure with a great hope for the future and a steadfast anchor our souls while we are on Earth (Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 1:4-5).

Thank you for joining me on this fascinating Journey of who we are as a Christian before God. Please join us again next week to learn more.

All praise for Christ’s church

Welcome again to my blog. Thank you for visiting.

This blog series is describing what happens, as taught in the Bible, to individuals at the time of their salvation. We started last week with the fantastic promise of spiritual baptism, resulting in a steadfast new and wonderful position of a believer. This week let us overview our membership in Christ’s church.

At salvation the Holy Spirit places each of us into the church of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). This is a great promise and is a part of the results of our belief in salvation by faith alone in Christ.

The form of the church into which we are placed by the Spirit can be called, in theological terms, the church universal. This form of the church roughly can be described as the following:

The practical outworking of the church universal is multiple organized bodies of believers often called the local church, but in our current age might be virtual (online) as well. Para-church organizations (e.g. independent missions or college ministries) function within the church universal, but similarly to the local church. Scripture gives broad definition to how churches are organized which allows great flexibility to serve Christ in various times and cultures.

These concepts of the church I’ve tried to base on scripture without cultural overlays of expectations and definitions. Regardless, the concept of the universal church is controversial. For example, some denominations may not accept the concept of a ‘universal church’. However, as the Apostle Paul states, we do what we do in faith using what we need to serve God, filtered by prayer and God’s word (1 Timothy 4:4-5; Romans 14:23).

In this series so far, we have covered that at our salvation through faith in Christ’s death on the cross we have a spiritual baptism that identifies us as resurrected to a new life and places by the Spirit in Christ’s church.

Praise be to God for such wonderful promises and positions resulting from such a great salvation. Stay tuned next week as we continue our discussion of the results of salvation. Thank you for joining me today.

Baptism, it is not just for dunking anymore!

Welcome again to my blog. Thank you for visiting.

Last week we began discussing the effects of personal salvation and why it might be associated with enhanced wellbeing as found through Teleios’ research. Let’s discover the biblical reasons why. This is a fantastic journey!

The next several blogs will talk about what happens, as described in the Bible, at the time of salvation resulting in a steadfast new and wonderful position of a believer. The blogs are based on the list presented last week.

Let’s start with spiritual baptism. This important biblical truth is vital in understanding who we are as Christians. Our knowledge about baptism will transform the way we think!

First, let’s consider the word itself. Although controversial, in the Epistles when baptism is mentioned it speaks generally of spiritual baptism. It does not mean dunking or sprinkling primarily; water baptism might be considered as an external ritual to signify the internal event. The word is βαπτιζω (baptizoo) in the Greek (this is the language in which the New Testament originally was written), and was an old term borrowed from the dye trade. It meant that a piece of cloth immersed in the dye became identified with the new color.

Secondly then, what does being identified with Christ have to do with us as Christians? Fortunately, a lot!

When we become a Christian we are identified with Christ’s gracious death and His resurrection. Otherwise, at salvation our old self died and was buried with Christ. We are raised now to new life with Him and we sit with Him on the right hand of God the Father (Romans 6:2-12; Ephesians 2:4-7; Colossians 2:12-13).

Why is this concept so important? Similar concepts in Scripture that also appear to speak probably to spiritual baptism are: regeneration (Titus 3:5), born again (John 3: 5) and a new man (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10):

  • Believer’s sin – Although every believer sins we can say ‘no’ to sin because as a new person in Christ we have the power to live a victorious life.
  • The reason for the resurrection – Baptism teaches us the importance of the resurrection because we are raised with Christ to new life without which we would still be dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).
  • Eternal security – Baptism helps prove we cannot lose our salvation. because scripture does not indicate that if we commit sin that our new self can be killed and the old dead self re-resurrected like some bad re-make of the ‘Night of the Living Dead’!

In other words, you are transformed permanently to a new life, resurrected with Christ and sitting with Him in heaven. These changes cannot be reversed. What a great comfort we have in truth of scripture.

Therefore, as a new person, we are liberated from sin and are free to serve Christ. We cannot be defeated by the misdeeds of our old self.

Christ is a fantastic and true Savior! The nature of our salvation is so important that we will continue to address each of the individual promises overviewed last week. We’ll see how they will enhance our wellbeing. Come back next week as we continue this exciting journey about the nature of our great salvation.

Wow, what a great salvation!

Welcome again to my blog. Thank you for visiting. We’ve been discussing in recent weeks the church, God’s chosen method of administration for our time before Christ returns, and that all members should be productive believers, born again through faith alone. This is important so the church may advance the Gospel and positively affect its community. However, it is also important for the individual believer. Why is this?

This question is multi-leveled, complicated, but wonderful. As understanding our salvation is transformative. Let’s spend the next few blogs discussing it.

Teleios Research has found that knowledge of salvation and eternal security enhances our wellbeing. What are the biblical reasons why? Today’s blog will talk about what happens, as described in the Bible, at the time of our salvation which results in a new and wonderful position for the believer.

We know from scripture that our merciful God chose us (Ephesians 1:4,5,11; Romans 8:29-30), convicted us by his Spirit (John 16:8), and dragged us to Himself (John 6:44) that we might believe in Christ’s forgiveness. All this by grace through the Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to grant us salvation by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Indeed, God is worthy of praise for such a great salvation!

However, it is vital for us to know exactly what happens at salvation as it enhances our wellbeing and confidence, and certainly our praise to God.

At salvation we receive:

  • Spiritual baptism – We are regenerated by the Spirit into a new person and our old self dies (Romans 6:2-9). We become identified (the meaning of the word ‘baptism’) with Christ’s death and resurrection. This marvelous spiritual truth speaks to the importance of the resurrection because it is the vehicle for our new life in Christ and eternity (Romans 6:9; 10:9-10). Indeed, we are a new person and the old sinful self is gone forever.
  • Membership in the church (1 Corinthians 12:13) – The Spirit places each believer in the church universal (the fellowship of all believers under the headship of Christ [Colossians 1:17-18]). We serve others, and God, typically through a local church assembly.
  • The Holy Spirit – He is given in part as a down payment to our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14, 2 Corinthians 1:21) that we cannot lose (Romans 8:28-39; 1 Peter 1:4-5). He maintains us until the day of our redemption when Christ comes again (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:10).
  • Adoption – Each believer is a child of God, adopted into his family. As generally in first world cultures today, when a child was adopted in the ancient Greek and Roman world, it was a legal right that could not be overturned. In other words, the adopted child received all the rights and privileges of a natural-born child; so with a believer as a child of God (Ephesians 1:5).
  • Justification – Before we believed we were guilty of sin for which Christ died on the cross to provide his forgiveness and to declare us innocent (Romans 3:24-25). The word for justified in Greek (δικαιος, dikaios) means legally found innocent as in court of law. In other words, there is no double jeopardy: οnce found innocent no one can bring a charge against us (Romans 8:33).
  • Possession– We are the possession of Christ and God (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:10). No one can take us out of their hand (John 10:27-30).

Christ is a fantastic and true Savior! The nature of our salvation is so important we will speak to each of these topics individually and how they might enhance a believer’s wellbeing. Come back again next week as we start this exciting journey to discover the nature of our great salvation.

More on how to help a non-believer

Welcome back to my blog. I am so glad you can visit today.

The last few weeks we have discussed scriptural methods to recognize true and non-true believers (tares) in the church. Importantly, it may be someone close to you: your friends, your family or perhaps even someone on the church staff. Last week we began considering why helping a tare towards salvation can be difficult. It can be a tough sell! This week we cautiously present some suggestions for how to share your faith with a non-believer (assuming an adult age group), realizing the difficulty at hand. Here are some hopefully helpful suggestions:

  • Become friends – The first step is to befriend your potentially unbelieving acquaintance or increase the depth of your relationship. Ask them peripheral questions over issues related to Christianity and the church, for example: likes and dislikes about their church such as the preaching, choir, Sunday school, leadership, etc. Then listen! People love to talk about themselves and their opinions.
  • Listening is vital because it shows your respect and acceptance of the person. Further, it allows you to analyze their scriptural needs as you learn about them. Every individual is important. After you listen for a while, follow up with more specific questions, eliciting more detail.
  • Advance the depth of questions – Ultimately, when they trust you then you can progress the conversation to what they believe about Christ specifically; who He is, why He came, favorite scripture about Christ, or what they thought about what the pastor said about Christ in his sermon.
  • These questions should be asked in a conversational, non-threatening manner. Again, just mostly listen! These types of questions will teach you more about your friend and especially help you assess if they understand the nature of salvation through Christ.
  • Advance the conversation to the gospel – At some point you need specifically to express the Gospel to your potential tare (Romans 10:9-10) without helping them answer. How to do this? This task is a 100X easier after you have shown your respect and affection by building the relationship and listening to them. Every person is different. Here are some ideas:
    • Should the elders’ preparation class ask the attendees to state how to express the Gospel, what would you want them to say? An alternative, if your friend asked you how to be saved, what would you tell them?
    • If your friend confesses a need to learn scripture knowledge, ask them to do a one-on-one study with you where you can discuss the gospel and who Christ is from scripture itself. Warning, they rarely will mention doing a Bible study themselves, you will need to propose to them directly a study based on the needs they express when you are listing to them.
    • For example, if they have mentioned in prior conversations they do not know much scripture then propose a verse by verse study from Colossians or Ephesians. A Bible study is a great tool as it brings your friend and you to a neutral ground where they can observe the gospel themselves.
    • Ask them during the study, at an appropriate verse, what they believe is important in expressing the gospel to someone. They will need to learn it with your teaching, probably over several Bible study sessions.

St. Peter’s question – If all else fails I describe a scenario in which one day they stand before St. Peter and he asks, ‘What gives you the right to enter heaven?’ or ‘Why should I let you in here?’ This question cuts to the fundamental basis of a person’s true faith. They must express exactly what qualifies them for heaven. Try this question with even long-standing church believers and you will get amazing answers.

In my wife, Jeanette’s, and my own experience in teaching the Bible to churched adults, at the beginning of the study probably ⅓ to ½ of our students did not understand the grace of salvation, even on prompting; not even close!

Once your friend knows the gospel, do not indicate they just became a Christian as this may cause discord, but just be joyful that they can express it confidently and can tell someone else. If you think they may not believe what they say, then ask directly if they believe the plan of salvation to hopefully address any questions or doubts.

Have mercy on your friends and your family! Consider carefully if they truly understand their salvation which is so carefully laid out in scripture.

That is all for today. Thanks for joining me as always.

How to help the non-believer

Welcome back to my blog. I am honored you can visit.

We have been discussing that the church is God’s plan to implement His purposes for this time before Christ’s return. It should function efficiently with love and act consistently with God’s word. The last few weeks we covered scriptural methods to recognize true and non-true believers (tares) in the church.

This week let’s think how we might help the church-attending non-believer. It can be a tough sell! How can we bring a non-believer’s attention to their own unbelief? Next week we’ll provide a few suggestions about how to share your faith with a non-believer.

What makes helping a non-believer difficult is if you ask a non-believer if they are a Christian, they most always would respond “yes.” Are they being dishonest? Consider that there are several levels of Christianity accepted in our culture.

  • Christian Seeker – These are typically new church attendees who may not recognize that they are not a true believer because they are interested in learning about Christianity. Generally, they are comfortable in the social setting of the church (which often is designed expressly for that purpose). A seeker may say they are a Christian. However, they may be more willing to admit they do not yet believe as their motivation for church attendance may be to seek a solution to their needs, which might be spiritual.
  • Social Christian – These are individuals, most likely church members or attendees, perhaps longstanding, who would readily indicate they are a Christian. However, when asked to explain their Christian beliefs in specific terms they might be unable to express the gospel, even with prompting. Unfortunately, since they typically are tied to the church and its social structure, they would be embarrassed to admit they are not truly a believing Christian; this would likely affect their self-esteem and social standing. Non-believers would fall into this group.
  • Evangelical, born-again Christian – These Christians identify as saved by grace, by faith alone in the forgiveness provided by Jesus Christ‘s death on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9).

What’s the problem? The first two groups are accepted socially and are comfortable within the typical evangelical church setting. Consequently, to confront them regarding salvation may (almost assuredly) produce a defensive posture and perhaps a damaged friendship.

How then can we bring these important church members to be willing to evaluate their own salvation in an objective way? Good question! We don’t yet know from research how to best approach them. Further, the method will likely differ per the individual. Consequently, we must cling to scripture where God reminds us to try to bring the gospel to all people. How to do this? We will discuss this interesting topic in the next blog! Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to seeing you again next week!