Is knowledge Essential to Salvation?

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I almost do not want to write about this subject. Many times, I have come close to giving up on any attempt to communicate this message. I am not even sure that I completely understand all of the implications that arise because of my conclusions. However, it is an important message to understand in the 21st century of post-modern relativism and mass communications where conflicting opinions bombard us from every direction.

Recently, I engaged in many debates on social media regarding the fine complexities of biblical doctrine. It is interesting to see how many people arrive at different ideas about the Christian faith. It can also be confusing. But the first major fallacy that is easy to overcome is the “ALL or Nothing” paradigm where if a person does not agree with everything someone else teaches regarding the Bible then they are servants of the devil. Even the apostle Paul, who had his own disagreements with some in the church of Jerusalem, allowed many to follow their conscience over some theological issues of the day such as whether or not to observe Jewish festivals.

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 4:15, KJV).

Paul taught there was room for disagreement on some points of doctrine as long as personal opinions did not directly conflict with the message of Christ. On the other hand, Paul was adamant that all Christians believed some essential facts regarding the person and work of Jesus.

For example, Paul proclaimed to the Galatians:

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4, NIV).

This statement reveals that a prerequisite for salvation is to give up attempting to be justified by the law of God, which means not placing conditions on salvation other than simple faith in Jesus Christ. Those who bought into a false gospel had been alienated from Christ and had fallen outside the grace of God.

These scriptures force me to conclude there are two groups of Bible doctrine. The first group are the essential doctrines of Christianity requiring an understanding of basic facts regarding Jesus and the plan of salvation. The second group contains the secondary and supporting doctrines needed for a full understanding of the Christian life, but are not necessary for faith in Jesus.

A basic understanding of the essential doctrines of Christianity is necessary for genuine faith in the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ.

FALSE PROFESSION AND SPRITUAL DECEPTION

Some Christians believe that all who profess Christ are granted eternal life. What is required for salvation is a simple profession of faith in Jesus, but this is not the truth. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned about professing Christians who would be lost in the end-times:

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23, KJV).

Jesus taught a mere profession of faith in Him is not enough to bring a person to salvation. More is required than simply addressing Jesus as Lord even if professed Christians are able to perform miraculous works in His name.

Jesus also warned about mass deception that would lead many astray:

“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5, KJV).

FALSE RELIGION AND FALSE GOSPEL

Jesus repeated this sentiment later on during His ministry when He taught about the goats who professed Christianity:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25: 32-46, NIV)

Jesus gave us a hint of the major reason for their disqualifications as Christians. They saw themselves as God’s people, but they isolated themselves from the “least of these” and closed themselves off from those they saw as being unfit for the kingdom. They thought they were doing the right things, by doing good works, but their motivation was to bring glory to themselves instead of reaching out to the sinful and the ungodly. They saw themselves as good people and above the sinfulness of the world, but instead they are accounted by Christ as the worst of the cursed.

Jesus also rebuked the religious leaders of Israel and gave us another clue to the reason behind mass spiritual blindness:

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29, NIV).

These warnings of Jesus teach us the importance of knowing the Holy Scriptures as it pertains to the power of God to avoid spiritual deception. The power of God is nothing other than the cross of Christ to save all who trust His saving grace.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

Jesus warned the people of Israel about spiritual deception and gave them enough information about what to avoid so that they would not fall prey to false Christs. However, His primary motivation for these warnings was to help them to understand truth about Himself:

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am” (John 13:19, NIV).

Is the Universe Eternal?

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There are two ways of looking at the universe. One way is to claim that energy is eternal. If this is the case, then an intelligent designer is not a necessary cause for human existence.

Another way of looking at the natural world is that an intelligent creator is the source of all energy, and this higher power programmed the laws of nature.
The first law of thermodynamics seems to support the eternal nature of energy by stating that energy cannot be created or destroyed. However, the first law is not based on observation but is an assumption open to interpretation by experts who arrive at different conclusions when presented with the observable facts within the natural world (Geisler & Howe, 1992).

The second law of thermodynamics, on the other hand, supports the conclusion that the universe had a definite beginning. This law states that the amount of usable energy in the universe is decreasing over time. If the universe was eternal, and did not have a beginning, then the amount of usable energy would have been depleted long ago.

Is the universe eternal? No, the universe had a definite beginning according to scientific theory. If the universe had a beginning then it must have had a definite cause. Logically, it makes more sense to believe in an intelligent designer who created the natural world than to assume that the universe created itself by chance.

Stephen Beagles

The Mark of the Beast

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I had breakfast with George Vandeman, the famed Adventist evangelist from the It is Written television broadcast, and we talked about the Book of Revelation and the Mark of the Beast while we ate our morning pancakes at a Northern New England Camp Meeting many years ago.

We both agreed that the Mark of the Beast was symbolic and was given to people in the end-times, after the close of probation, who perverted the genuine gospel of Jesus with a gospel of works involving a forced conversion to Christianity and the worship of a false Christ. Furthermore, the Sabbath is a symbol of the free gift of salvation through resting in the completed works of Christ, and a reminder that we cannot work our way into the heavenly kingdom.

Forcing someone to worship God, or submitting to the worship of a false Christ, is a spiritual death sentence for those alive at the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Sabbath is a reminder of the gospel of Jesus.

This is the REAL meaning behind the Sabbath and the Mark of the Beast in the end times. It will be clear to all genuine Christians living in that time period that God does not force anyone to worship. Obedience that is not motivated by love for the free gift of salvation purchased by the blood of Christ is worthless, evil, and idolatrous.

Stephen Beagles

How to Pray to God

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PAUSE. Reflect on what it means to be in the presence of ultimate power, wisdom, and source of life.

PRAISE. Begin by thanking God for all of the blessings He has already bestowed. There is always something for which we can be grateful.

POUR. Tell God what is on your mind and don’t hold back. Give Him the good, bad, and ugly about what is on your heart. Pour out your heart to God who loves and cares about you.

PETITION. Tell God what you want and need for yourself, your family, and friends. He answers 100% of our prayers with a yes, no, or wait for the right time. Nothing is too hard for God.

PROCLAIM. Renew your willingness to be a channel of God’s love to the world. Proclaim your intentions to use your spiritual gifts to build up the kingdom of God. Proclaim your desire to do your part to promote the truth of God’s word. Commit yourself to follow God’s direction wherever it leads.

PREPARE. God has heard your prayer. Prepare to receive the answers that He alone can give you. Remember, we may not always get what we asked, but know that God has promised to give us what is best.

Stephen Beagles