Tag Archives: lordship salvation

Once Saved Always Saved? My Journey towards Lordship

It is scripturally well supported that there remains a journey – upon God’s first call to us – expected for the called to walk in, with God and towards God. It is also scripturally clear that God will judge how we have walked this journey, and He will be justified in whatever He judges.

 

This is applicable in the case of Israel, when they were called “out of slavery” in Egypt, beginning a journey, with a goal of “entering their promise land.” This physical-literal description is also symbolic of the spiritual journey God expects of Israel then, and of all Christians today. Unfortunately, the Moses generation didn’t fulfil what was prophesied and promised to them, because of disobedience and faithlessness.

 

Similarly, with respect to individuals, like how Abraham was tested to sacrifice Isaac; Daniel was tested in his civil disobedience to king Darius – and was thrown into the Lion’s den; God expects all who are called to journey faithfully. We also read of how the unfaithful like Judas,  Ananias and Sapphira, fell short, because they would not surrender to God, but chose options that betrayed – and lied to – God. These are New Testament examples, and they are completely consistent with Old Testament ones, like king Saul etc. In Revelations too, the churches are expected to “overcome” or they will be judged by God.

 

But many of us subscribe to a salvation doctrine that is based on a one-time prayer made. I had written on this to explain why easy-believism is erroneous. As much as we like to comfort and encourage one another, salvation is a core doctrine we need to preach it right.

 

Hyper Grace Error

One doctrine that has caused confusion to large groups of Christians is the hyper grace doctrine. Hyper grace draws a distinction between New and Old Testament times, claiming that God of the OT saves by obedience to the law, while God of the NT saves effortlessly by grace.

 

This claim is wrong. God has always saved men by grace, even during the OT times. For example, God instituted the feast of atonement, and ordered the high priest of Israel to make atonement for all Israel through animal sacrifice. Choosing to forgive the sins of Israel by animal sacrifice is an act of grace.

 

Truth is, men can never be saved purely by their works and their obedience to law. Even in the OT, we are all saved by God’s grace. So hyper grace draws a wrong analogy between OT and NT by comparing works vs grace.

 

But there is something that changed with the coming of Christ. (Hebrews 8:13 says that the first covenant is made obsolete and the new covenant is better) So what changed? The thing that changed, is that the “fulfilment” that the OT’s temple rituals foreshadowed, or symbolised, is finally here – Christ Himself! The perfect Lamb of God!

 

And since Christ has come, temple rituals in the OT are now obsolete. You no longer have to wait for the high priest to physically make atonement in the Holy of Holies once a year, but you yourself can enter into the throne of the Father in spirit, intimately and freely, with confidence you have through your relationship with Christ! Isn’t this a better covenant?

 

But this isn’t a change of God’s character. This is a fulfilment revealing of His character in greater measures!

 

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? – Hebrews 9:13

 

God is unchanging. He has intended, since the beginning, to have Himself made known in fuller measures through Christ. So we certainly are reading about the same God, of the same character, and we should draw lessons from the Old Testament, as how we learn from the New.

 

Jesus Himself, only had the Old Testament as Scriptures. The New Testament was not yet written during Jesus’ time on earth; much less – canonised.

 

So God did not have have a major brain surgery, or a Dr Jerkyl and Mr Hyde shift of character, between the Old and New Testament, as hyper grace doctrine seems to imply. God is consistent throughout. He is love. He is patient. He is kind. He is merciful. He gives grace. He forgives. He expects us to surrender and obey. He expects us to have faith in Him. He is jealous for us. He likes us to wait on Him. He judges. He saves. And the standard by which He judges and saves is consistent, clear, just – and revealed.

 

My Journey towards Lordship

My journey with God began even before I know Him or had ever made any prayer to God. I was 13 years old. One day, on my way home, an older teen stopped me and shared Christ with me. Because of that, I missed my bus. Later, I found out that bus got crushed by a huge tree – where my favourite seats were.

 

I did not “give my life to Christ” then. Not till when I hit 21 years old, where I prayed to “accept Christ as my Saviour” at a rally. I did it half-heartedly to “give God an opportunity” to show me He is true. After saying the sinner’s prayer, I continued to smoke. I had no desire to follow God, to pray or to read His word. I consider this phase of my belief in Christ “exploratory”.

 

It wasn’t till God gave me a dream that my faith turned “serious”. I stopped smoking.

 

Nevertheless, I struggled with relationship issues and had difficulties surrendering relationships to God. After months of struggling, I fell and lit up a cigarette from a newly bought pack. God intervened and spoke to me halfway through my smoke. I cried and threw that cigarette away – along with the whole pack and my lighter. I prayed to God to make my faith 100%. He did and at some point, I became fully “convicted” in my faith.

 

By then, I decided I would put God first regardless of whatever struggles I have, and found that God speaks through my pain and obedience. I never touched cigarettes again. This is when I believe I begin to actively partner God in all He is doing for me and wants to do for me, who then justifies me because of my obedience. I truly became a disciple (Jn 8:31), and I began to know His truth and experience true freedom. I never looked back. God’s word says,

 

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – Jn 8:31-32

The prerequisite for freedom in our soul is to “continue” in Christ’s words. To “continue” means we are already living out His word in the past, and we continue to do so, and we will keep on at it. ONLY IF we do this, Christ says, “then you are truly disciples of Mine.”

 

Sinner’s prayer begins a process of exploration; don’t stop short of Lordship

Hence, I am more than aware that this is a journey which has an element of pursuit by the King; yet, there needs also a willingness on my part to submit. Throughout the journey, I could turn away, give up on God, as per the parable of the sower:

 

  1. Seed along the path: Before I decided to “explore” the faith, I was like the seed that fell along the path and the devil took it away. E.g. Despite the bus incident, I didn’t begin my journey with Him. (Luke 8:12)
  2. Seed on the rock: Even after I began “exploring”, I could still fall away in times of testing as I have no root. E.g. I continued to live in deliberate sin, e.g. smoking, even after I had prayed to receive Christ. (Luke 8:13)
  3. Seed among thorns: Even as I became “serious” in my faith, I could still be choked up by cares, riches and pleasures (Luke 8:14) – and my fruit does not mature – if I do not surrender these idols to Him.
  4. Seed in good soil: But because of God’s great pursuing love, I did decide to surrender to Him and became “convicted” in my faith. From then on, He helped me on hearing His word to keep it – in a good and honest heart. And with patience, I began to bear fruit (Luke 8:15).

 

Sinners’ Prayer and Salvation – what Christian Leaders should clarify

Therefore, beginning a journey with God isn’t a sign that we have arrived, nor is there scriptural substantiation that one is saved the moment God calls us – and when we respond with the sinners’ prayer. Yes a journey might have been initiated, but this is just the start of a new relationship that we can still choose to close our doors to, though the goal of this journey is that we would become His disciple. (In the first instalment, I explain how discipleship really is about Lordship).

 

With this laid out, God will judge us attitudinally, and He alone knows whether we are faithful to obey all that He has commanded us (as per Great Commission; Mat 28:20).

 

That said, I did start out my journey in becoming a disciple with the sinners’ prayer, which began the “exploratory” phase of my Christian faith. Did the “sinners’ prayer” moved me somewhere away from my hardened heart to a closer place to Jesus? The answer is yes. But do I believe I was saved with this prayer? The answer is no. Could I have left the Christian faith at that point? Absolutely.

 

In fact, I had then declared to my church mates if God still doesn’t reveal Himself to me substantially in a month’s time, I will revert to my previous religion. Regardless of what hyper grace doctrine advocates, God’s grace certainly won’t be able to save me if I had fallen away, even though I had prayed the sinners’ prayer.

 

But where God’s grace is not applicable yet, God’s love is. God pursued me even before I had believed in Him. God answered me even when I was haughty and proud. God patiently waited for me while I was in sin and reached out to me when I became lost, weak and in need. God loved me unconditionally while I was still wilful. In spite of all this, we retain our free will to love and embrace, or hate and reject Him.

 

Thankfully, I did decide to become His disciple, which according to Jesus’s definition, is someone who loves Him above everything else. And this is the only time when once saved always saved is applicableIf I truly love God above all things else, wouldn’t that mean I would never ever be swayed away from my King? Literally, it implies that. However, even if true, only Christ knows. For my heart is deceitful. And from my position of man, I know I have to stay alert and watchful, and keep on continuing in His word (Jn 8:31).

 

But not everyone will end up making Christ as their King in this journey. Scriptures warns that many self professing “Christians” will be surprised when they are turned away by our Lord in the end, for they do not seek His will like how a disciple will.

 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’– Matt 7:21-23

In closing, while easy-believism and sinner’s prayer are not the essence of Christ’s call for discipleship, it nevertheless, might be a useful step to draw sinners to Him. However, it is imperative that ALL Christian teachers must – even if not at the start, then at least at some point – teach Lordship as the goal for all who are in the journey of knowing God. Ultimately, salvation belongs to God. We can never say for sure when a person is saved. But it is our responsibility to teach wholly and faithfully according to Scriptures. To this end even the great apostle Paul emphatically declares,

 

“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” – Acts 20:26-27.

 


Note: This is Part 2 of the Salvation Series by VOW. Part 1 can be found here:

Are we really saved? Two contradicting perspectives: Lordship vs Easy-Believism

Are we really saved? Two contradicting perspectives: Lordship vs Easy-Believism

The Bridegroom is coming back! Are you prepared for it?

 

Many Christians no longer see the importance of theology. But it is most important to me. Theology informs practice, and in my years of ministry, I have met too many Christians who don’t know what the gospel is. 95% of Christians (my estimate) do not know that the gospel is about the kingdom of God. Though salvation through Christ is a central theme, it is not the END of the gospel. Salvation is THE MEANS to KINGDOM as the END.

 

A reduced gospel has led to a church who has lost her mission of Kingdom. Churches largely work today AS IF Church is the END. Again, it is not. Church is the MEANS to KINGDOM as the END. Kingdom is the context of our gospel. If we lose the context, we don’t know what our salvation is for. We don’t understand what church is for.

 

If Church does not know her mission, how can we be prepared for Christ’s return?

 

To the end of preparing the Bride of Christ, I have been equipping churches with the Biblical Worldview. Last year, I began to feel a tug that I needed to start writing again. There are many who seeks clarity – truth must be made available to them without restriction. Since Voice of Wilderness‘s mission is to proclaim and reveal God’s heart with clarity, I decide we need a “blog” so I can start writing. I hope truth will benefit you as much as it has flourished me and my family – because that’s the inevitable result of knowing and living out truth.

 

And perhaps the most important point to clarify, is the place where it all supposedly begins – how are we saved?

 

The Salvation Debate: Lordship Salvation vs Easy-Believism

In 1988, John MacArthur published his position on salvation in The Gospel According to Jesus. It teaches that submitting to Christ as Lord goes hand-in-hand with trusting in Christ as Savior. Laying out the case for lordship salvation, MacArthur summarises his teaching this way:

 

“The gospel call to faith presupposes that sinners must repent of their sin and yield to Christ’s authority.

 

In other words, a sinner who refuses to repent is not saved, for he cannot cling to his sin and the Savior at the same time. And a sinner who rejects Christ’s authority in his life does not have saving faith, for true faith encompasses a surrender to God.

 

Thus, the gospel requires more than making an intellectual decision or mouthing a prayer; the gospel is a call to discipleship.

 

Lordship salvation is the opposite of what is sometimes called easy-believism – the view that one needs only to “believe” in Jesus in order to be saved. Another common usage of easy believism is in reference to those who believe they’re saved because they prayed a prayer – with no real conviction of sin and no real faith in Christ. Praying a prayer is easy, thus the term easy believes. From this, they conclude that no corresponding need exists for those who hold on to sola fide (“faith alone”)(Do not be confused. Being saved by faith alone does not nullify the importance of works. Essentially, while we are NOT saved by works, works IS a reflection of true faith. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – Jam 2:17; “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. – James 2:24”)

 

The Scriptural Case for Lordship Salvation

While I had not read John MacArthur’s book, I agree with the position of “Lordship” salvation. I arrived at my position independently – I shall take the rest of this post and the next to explain how. Though it won’t be as thorough as what I do in my worldview equipping talks, it should be sufficient for those who need a scriptural context for this position.

 

First of all, Lordship salvation isn’t new. Other than John MacArthur, many other notable teachers like David Pawson, David Platt (see video below), Charles Spurgeon believed and implied it through what they preach, write.

David Platt questioning Christian’s dependence on the “sinner’s prayer” as the sign or assurance that we are saved

 

However, truth must be founded in Scriptures and not men. Yet even scriptures cannot work its effect in you if you don’t approach it with the right heart. By that, I mean we must subject our paradigm to truth. If God makes a point unambiguously, He does not need to repeat Himself in order to be believed; it is as binding as if He had said it a thousand times. If you don’t think you can approach truth with this attitude, it is pointless to continue. You need to address the sinful attitude towards truth first. If you think you are humble enough to be taught by Scriptures, read on.

 

What does Christ say about discipleship

In Luke 14:26, Jesus exclaimed:

 

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26

 

Many of us struggle with this verse because of the word “hate”. But is Christ really asking us to hate our parents and spouse literally? No of course! The same God has called us to love our spouse: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her – Eph 5:25; and to honour our parents: “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – Eph 6:2. God’s word does not self-contradict. Even if we think it has, it is because we are lacking in understanding His Word. So what Christ is really saying here is that we have to place God as our priority, as our first love, such that every other loves are secondary to our love for Him. We cannot (see emphasis in verse 26) be a disciple when we don’t do that.

 

As if this isn’t clear enough, Jesus went on to give two examples. The first was about a man contemplating if he should build a tower:

 

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” – Luke 14:28-30

 

The second was about a king going to war with another:

 

“Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.” – Luke 14:31-32

 

Both examples stress on the need to deliberate on the cost of following something. If Christ costs you everything, would He still be worth you following?

 

Jesus reiterates this conclusion once more in the next verse:

 

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:33 (emphasis mine)

Can I say that up till this point, Jesus is unambiguously clear on the cost of discipleship. TO SURRENDER EVERYTHING SO AS TO FOLLOW CHRIST – or LORDSHIP – is the first step to becoming a disciple of Christ. Either we make this decision, or we CANNOT be His disciple (v26; 33).

 

The way Christ ended Luke 14 is sobering. Right after He talked about cost of following Him, He immediately brought up the example of salt which lost its saltiness.

 

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” – Luke 14:34

Reading this in context, we have to conclude that Christ is implying that “Christians” who do not surrender all of themselves to Him are like salt without saltiness. And of what use is salt without saltiness? Jesus explains,

 

“It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Luke 14:35

A Christian who is not surrendered to Christ in everything is of no use for the King at all. We see this in Judas, whom despite following the Lord faithfully for most parts of His journey, fell in the end because he did not surrender his love for mammon to God. What we cannot surrender to Him is an idol – and king – of our life. God required Abraham’s full worship when He called him to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac. Christ Himself modelled a fully surrendered life when He prayed to the Father, “yet not my will but Yours be done” – Luke 22:42.

 

If Christ is not the Lord of all, He is not the the Lord at all.” 

 

Just “believe” and we will be saved?

However, in Christian culture today, it seems like there is a belief that not all Christians are required to be a disciple. Nominal Christianity is the norm, and many believe that they are saved as long as they have said the sinner’s prayer, and are attending Sunday services religiously. This idea, perpetuated by easy-believism, seems to have its roots in verses that seem to imply – one needs only to mentally “believe” to be saved e.g. John 3:16 which says “whosoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life”. Is such an interpretation correct?

 

In my study of scriptures, I realised that the original Greek for the word “believe” has a much deeper essence to it. This word, “pisteuo” is a verb, and it is derived from its noun – “pistis“. “Pistis” in Greek means “be persuaded; come to trust”. “Pistis” is translated “faith” in English. When you understand the root word where “pisteuo” comes from, you will see that “pisteuo” presupposes an element of persuasion – such that the persuaded (or the one who now “believes”) holds on to this belief with entrustment; confidence; faith.

 

Hence, “pisteuo” is not merely an intellectual shift of opinion, but consists of elements that convey to us that believing in Christ MUST BE followed by the compulsion to act according to that which is believed.

 

The English word, “believe,” on the other hand, is not associated with elements of “persuasion” or “entrustment.” Take for example, one can “believe” mentally that exercise is good for health, but DOESN’T HAVE any compulsion to exercise at all. This is not the same as “pisteuo.” Hence, the English translation “believe” shortchanges the essence of “pisteuo.”

 

This has allowed some to misinterpret John 3:16 as a substantiation for easy-believism.

 

Also, many often quote John 3:16 in isolation. But John 3:16 does not exist in isolation. If you read the whole paragraph, four verses down, it becomes quite clear John wasn’t talking about easy-believism.

 

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light.. But whoever does what is true comes to the light – John 3:20-21.” (emphasis mine)

 

John was saying to “believe” is not merely to have an intellectual shift of opinion. The practical outworking of biblical living – to DO what is true – is expected of believers of the light.

 

And 20 verses down, still within the same Chapter, John 3:36 (ESV) becomes even more pointed:

 

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)” – John 3:36

 

Here, those who “believes” is contrasted with those who “does not obey”. The essence of “pisteuo” clearly stands out. When the bible says “believe” in Christ, it implies that we decide to “obey” Him as well. For Christ is not just our Saviour, but our King.

 

Does Lordship mean I will never sin again?

The distinction of Lordship salvation is this: Upon believing, our attitudes change from being sin-led, to being King-led. This does not mean we will never sin again, but as we are disciples in Christ, led by Him as our King, provision is made for sin in our weaknesses, as according to Romans 8:1

 

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – Romans 8:1

 

The context of Romans 8:1 is found in Romans 7, where the great apostle Paul lamented about his sinful flesh, For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (verse 19). Note that Paul does not want to be sin-led. He wants to do good. He wants holiness and righteousness. He wants to be King-led! But he recognises he has a corruptible body which falls again and again to sin. It is in this context of Paul’s inability to overcome his sinful nature that he cried, “Wretched man I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (verse 24) Then he declared in the same breath, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”(verse 25) 

 

What an encouragement! God who calls us into an uncompromising life of Lordship, is in full knowledge of our weaknesses, struggles and inabilities. He has already made provision for our sin, so we can be in victory against condemnation! Such grace is for those who repent of our sin-led attitudes, and decide to be King-led henceforth.  

 

Conclusion

Today, when I lead anyone in prayer to confess Christ as Lord, I make sure I explain to them what Lordship means – how from sin-led, they will need to be King-led henceforth. This attitude means everything to what being a Christian is all about. I explain to them the attitude of Lordship in our hearts is more important than our actual performance – whether we do achieve 100% obedience to the Lord (see additional resource: Kehilanews’ article: The Concept of Sin from a Hebrew Perspective). I explain to them that if their attitudes are such, Christ’s provision of grace will be with them as promised in Romans 8:1. They will not be condemned in their struggle. God’s grace is more than able to help us through. In this, all who believe are empowered to become disciples, and to lead a King-led life.

 

May we align with truth and be sanctified by His Word. May Christ be exalted as the unrivalled King of our lives today.

 

Read Part 2: http://vow.sg/once-saved-always-saved-my-journey-towards-lordship/