Ken Rich
Ken Rich - is creator of the Indie Gospel network and one of it's contributing artists.

"Special Events Cordinator" for WAAOM a 501(c)(3) Christian Charity.

Chapter head for CAPA - "old things pass away and behold all things become new".


Grace - Sovereign, Free, or Saving

By Ken Rich, 2017-04-05
Grace - Sovereign, Free, or Saving

There is a tremendous amount of confusion in Christianity over the most basic and elemental question - what must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, yes, but in what sense? That is a loaded question! The word "believe" means different things to the various schools of thought within Christendom. Let's take a brief look at what is being taught and compare it with the word of God. 

soteriology11.jpgThe Catholic Church maintains that it is possible and necessary for the human will to cooperate with divine grace. For them, that means participation in the seven sacraments of their Church is necessary for salvation. Of course Protestants consider that preposterous. In fact, Rome actually pronounced an anathema on the way of salvation revealed by Christ and his apostles and it has never been rescinded.

Council of Trent - (VII session in canon IV)
"If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema (excommunicated).”

In this, the Papists make a similar mistake as th
e Judaizers – legalism (salvation by works). The only difference is the nature of the works, substituting Church sacraments for works of the law (Moses law). They compounded their error by torturing and killing those who disagreed with them in brutal inquisitions.



The Eastern Orthodox also recognize free will and they teach theosis, which roughly equates to the process of sanctification in a certain sense. They rightly see the need for a transformative process, which brings likeness to or union with God. However, while moral transformation is certainly an important component of salvation, they neglect the aspect of the atonement Paul described in terms of legal justification

Enter the Protestant Reformation and the “Five Solas”. Grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, as defined by scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. Believe it or not, even among those who identify as Protestants and hold these points to be true, there is little agreement on how to be saved, or what constitutes belief.

First, let's look at Sovereign Grace which springs forth from the Calvinist school of thought. It's problems really go back to Augustine, who wove Manichean fatalism into his theology. Regrettably, his ideas had a great influence on Calvin and other reformers. Strict determinism became read into scripture such that God by meticulous providence predetermined EVERYTHING, including salvation, damnation, and every evil act.

In this view, God's grace is seen as irresistible, perseverance is inevitable, and election is unconditional. Good news for the elect but bad news for those God predestined to damnation. According to the Calvinist, God causes the non-elect to do evil, then tortures them for all eternity for the very evil he caused them to do, this in order to glorify himself. It makes God into more of a devil than Lucifer.



Even Calvin called his doctrine of predestination “the horrible decree” and acknowledged that the logical implications were grotesque. He conceded he could not explain how God could be the cause of sin, yet not be the author of sin (morally responsible). Still, he denied that it was so, due to some unfathomable “mystery”. At least he was honest in his admission of ignorance, but his appeal to mystery did nothing to dispel the dark clouds that hovered over his doctrine.

Some modern Calvinists are not so honest. They attempt to extradite themselves from the false dilemma of determinism, using subtle philosophical arguments based on 1st/2nd cause, compatibilism, and the like, but all such attempts fail. In the end, they must be inconsistent in their theology, or make God into a monster. They attempt to put lipstick on Calvin's pig, but Arminius thought it better to bring a prettier date to the party.




To Arminius, God was perfectly capable of giving man free will (in the true libertarian sense) while remaining sovereign. The plan of salvation was predestined but our participation in it is by choice. So instead of being forced into heaven or hell by the arbitrary predetermined decree of God, he wills ALL men to be saved but gives them the freedom to reject his salvation. So unlike Calvinism, salvation is offered to all, grace is resistible, perseverance is not inevitable, and election is conditioned on faith.

To distinguish it from the other views, I call this Saving Grace since it is more in line with what the Bible teaches. Christ's parables fit this framework. Eternal life is IN CHRIST (not you except as you receive him) and like a branch attached to a vine, you will continue to have eternal life, bear fruit, and persevere as long as you remain IN HIM. Nothing and no one can snatch you away from Christ, but if you choose to separate yourself from him, you will wither and die as surely as a branch removed from the vine that nourishes it.

In both the Calvinist and Arminian view, repentance is a necessary component. The difference is, in Calvinism the elect are forced to repent, in Arminianism, those who choose to co-operate with God in the salvation process, are empowered to repent. Moral transformation, or right living, is the expected outcome in either case.



There is yet a third major view called Free Grace, otherwise known as cheap grace, or easy believism. The other schools of thought take a dim view of it because moral transformation (repentance) is not required for salvation. Proponents of free grace wrongly take all of the warnings to repent and apply them to discipleship, which they completely separate from salvation. The view finds support mainly in the dispensationalist camp where forced literalism, two Gospels, eschatological novelties, and applying only a small section of the Bible to believers, are also aberrations.

With free grace, one receives a ticket to heaven the moment they makes a profession of faith, and it can never be lost. This view holds eternal security in common with Sovereign Grace, but for a different reason. Instead of perseverance being forced, it is not required at all. In effect, you can make a one-time profession, then sin like the devil and still be saved. You may lose some rewards but you are still glory bound - warts and all.

That is not Biblical. As James said, even the demons believe and tremblefaith without works is dead. In other words, belief that God exists is not enough, the faith that saves is evidenced by works. The free grace movement is wildly popular since it requires nothing difficult and promises eternal life to practicing, unrepentant, sinners. It gives a false sense of security which is very dangerous. 


In the Bible, obedience is implicit in the word believe. Belief entails true commitment and relationship, a submission to the will of God, not just mental assent to a doctrine or a quick trip to the altar. He wants to save us from our sins, not in our sins.

Hebrews 5:9 He [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 

Many verses such as John 5:29, Eph 5:5-7,24, Gal 5:24 make it clear that submitting to the will of God in obedience, such that moral transformation ensues, is encompassed in the word often translated simply as belief. Disobedience is equated with unbelief, it is receiving grace in vain. 

1 Corinthians 15:2  By this gospel you are SAVED, IF you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain

Paul then goes on to describe the Gospel and warns in verse 34 ...Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning

Did you notice something? He is not talking about discipleship, or losing rewards, he is talking about being SAVED. Did you notice something else? Paul said you could BELIEVE in vain.


Here again, Paul says ...we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain (2 Cor. 6:1)

He goes on to speak about the need to separate oneself from sin and sinners, the very thing the Free Grace camp teaches is not required.

2 Corinthians 7:1 ...let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.


So what went wrong to cause all this confusion and bad theology. Well, besides the Papal Apostasy, the Eastern schism, Augustine's Gnostic fatalism, and Darbyism, a less than nuanced understanding of the term “works” contributed greatly to the divisions.

In response to legalism, a tendency developed to view any good deed as de facto salvation by works. Faith plus nothing became the mantra. Sure legalism is wrong, whether it be the Judaizing of the Galatians or the Monkish works of Romanism, but does that mean we must throw out the baby with the bathwater? Should we refrain from doing deeds of righteousness and repentance for fear of missing salvation by faith?

This error has begun to be been addressed of late, but not without difficulty due to entrenched false doctrine in the hallowed halls of orthodoxy. Some modern scholars have rightly pointed out that final judgment is based on the works of an individual.


Biblically, a distinction is made between “works of the law” (Mosaic law keeping for salvation – works salvation) and “works of faith” (the outworking of your faith leads to works of repentance and righteousness). The apostles and most notably Paul argued against the first while affirming the latter. This has been brought forward as the “New Perspective on Paul”.

Final Judgment According to Works... was quite clear for Paul (as indeed for Jesus). Paul, in company with mainstream second-Temple Judaism, affirms that God’s final judgment will be in accordance with the entirety of a life led – in accordance, in other words, with works.— N. T. Wright

I can't say I agree with Wright in every area of theology, especially his eschatology, but on this point, I must concur. With him, I also acknowledge that good works do not contribute to our salvation but rather they result from it. Therefore, judgment by works is portrayed all through the New Testament as the litmus test of one's faith, to reveal it's authenticity. Verses like Matt. 25:31-46 make perfect sense in that light.

In fact, many difficulties melt away when we understand that legalism (works salvation) and performing good works because Christ is in you are two entirely different things. Other problems are quickly dispatched when we realize that Augustine's Gnostic fatalism has no place in Christian soteriology, free will does. Embracing the Five Solas was helpful in combating the errors of Romanism, but did not by itself guarantee correct doctrine - isms, schisms, and dogmas abound.


Systematic theology sometimes tends to complicate rather than clarify. However, if I had to choose a particular school of thought, the Arminian view is closest to the truth. There are internal disputes over some of the finer points, and divisions, but the broad framework is generally sound.

The Wesleyan Branch differs from Classical Arminianism not just on the nature of perfection, but on the nature of the atonement, and the finality of apostasy. How God's foreknowledge operates is another sticky wicket, giving rise to several interpretations.

Perhaps we should examine some basic concepts and keep it simple. Salvation is a process that has a temporal unfolding (occurs over time) and from first to last each step is by grace – his enabling, his gifts, his power, his calling. It is a gift but we must receive it. The free will God grants, allows us to accept, resist, or even reject salvation.

God initiates and if we choose to respond in faith, we become joined to Christ and can rightly say we have been saved, we are being saved, we will be saved IF we CONTINUE in Christ. Justification, sanctification, and glorification are all part of a dynamic process that must be completed before we can truly say we are saved (in the finalized sense). Yet by faith, we can reckon ourselves already saved.

Christ's work on the cross is finished, but his work in you is ongoing, final judgment and glorification are yet future. We can have full confidence that Christ will complete his work in us, if only we hold on to faith to the end (finish the race, stay attached to the vine, remain in Christ). Do you have faith in God's ability to change you, or just his ability to forgive you?


We are given a new nature, but that does not replace the old nature, it wars against it. As we mature we should be more and more dominated by the new nature, but make no mistake, even Wesley who fathered the doctrine of Entire Sanctification acknowledged the old nature was still there, ready to spring up and lead us into sin again if given the opportunity.

...we truly believe in Christ, yet we are not then renewed, cleansed, purified altogether; but the flesh, the evil nature, still remains (though subdued) and wars against the Spirit. John Wesley Sermon 13 - On Sin in Believers (Ch.13 – 2).


That's why Paul warned “take heed if you think you stand, lest you fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Wesley placed very heavy emphasis on holy living but even his doctrine of Entire Sanctification does not teach sinless perfection, more of a practical perfection. Most would agree that one can reach a state of maturity where the new nature dominates the old, but few agree as to what degree and in what time frame.

Theologians may argue over such questions but Biblically speaking, there is a progression and temporal unfolding. Discipline and perseverance through trials refine our faith as we move forward. Some believe signs should mark their progress – initial evidence, second blessings, third blessings, manifestations, emotions, experiences. I'm not a cessationist, but I do wish some of the nonsense would cease. Even howling like a dog passes for spirituality in some circles. What test of faith did Paul use?

When speaking on maturity Paul referred to Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1: 27-29). Again, when he told the Church in Corinth to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5), he said Christ is in you unless you fail the test. What test?

Well if you back up just a little to (2 Cor. 12: 20-21) you find a list of carnal sins. Paul is saying if your behavior is carnal, not spiritual – you fail the test – Christ is NOT in you.


This is where the rubber meets the road. Some very strange teachings have emerged of late, but there is no need to be in doubt or confusion. The Bible is abundantly clear, anyone can know if they are born again and following the way of salvation.

It does not require a degree in systematic theology; nor does it entail instantaneous sinless perfection; neither is it evidenced by vain babbling like the Oracle of Delphi; or flopping on the floor like a fish.

Very simply, do your deeds demonstrate your faith, or do you deny Christ by your actions? Do you have the fruits of the Spirit in evidence (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness), or are you still carnal? Does the Spirit testify with your spirit that you are a child of God?

If you go to Romans 8 and read the whole chapter in context, those who have the testimony of the Spirit and cry Abba (Father) are those who put to death the deeds of the body (repent and overcome) by the power of the indwelling Spirit. That is the witness, that is the sign, that is the test, that is the evidence that Christ is in you, regenerating you, imparting new life.

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but IF by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.



We must leave room for perseverance to finish its work. A babe in Christ may be on the path but not living as righteously as a mature Christian. There is a growth process, his Spirit works in you, providing both grace and discipline for our many stumbles.

However, if you're not overcoming and are still dominated by your carnal nature such that habitual sin characterizes your life, it is clear evidence Christ is not in you. Don't let emotions, manifestations, or doctrinal knowledge become your yardstick. Not every spirit is of God and not every wind of doctrine is correct.

It doesn't matter if you have a Doctor of Divinity degree from the finest institution. It doesn't matter if you giggle on the floor like a school girl or babble like a Voodoo Priest. It doesn't matter if you can knock down everyone in your Church with a wave of your hand - you can still fail the test.

Benny Hinn.jpg

You will know if you are (being) saved if his Spirit is in you, transforming you, giving you victory over sin, making you an overcomer. If that isn't happening, then whatever you are believing or experiencing does not meet the test – Christ is not in you - Paul was very clear about that.

On judgment day, all of us, regardless of our theological framework, will be in need of grace. Our faith and repentance are themselves gifts of God - graces that make us candidates for more grace.

To those who profess belief but whose works are carnal, the sentence will be “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”(Matt. 7:23).

To those who started in faith but fell away, there is NO hope. They can't be “...brought back to repentance”(Heb. 6:6).

To those who “...go on sinning after coming to a knowledge of the truth no further sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgment”( Heb. 10:27).


All judgment has been committed to Christ and he can apply the merits of his sacrifice to whomever he pleases. The blood of atonement is an absolute necessity, our works cannot save us. Yet we speak of having been already justified, already washed in his blood, already saved at the beginning, not the end of our experience. How can this be when the judgment is still far off?

When the temporal unfolding of our salvation is properly understood, we know why it is by faithWe have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the assurance we had at first (Hebrews 3:14). By faith what is future is counted as already ours, righteousness WILL be credited — for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead (Romans 4:24).

It's the use of past, present, and future tenses to describe the process which confuses us, we are used to thinking in time linearly. We have the promise already by faith, but we must remain in faith and wait for it's fulfillment. As Paul said - I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. ...I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).


If judgement is Christ's, what will be his criteria? As was explained before when I touched on what has become known as The New Perspective on Paul, he examines your works – not that they earn your salvation, or are meritorious, but they demonstrate your faith. No works mean no faith because if his Spirit is in you, good works become natural and sin becomes abhorrent. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

You can profess faith all you want, attend Church, even perform miracles in his name, but if your works are evil - Christ is not in you. His atoning sacrifice, his shed blood will avail you nothing at the judgment. 

Matthew 7:22 ...and will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, drove out demons in your name, and performed many miracles in your name, didn’t we?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!


Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad

The judgment is not simply a handing out of rewards, as some teach, your very soul is on the line. For those found in Christ, the inheritance and rewards are great indeed, but scripture is clear - sin and the suffering it causes will no longer be permitted to exist. The wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23) and not just the end of your mortal existence here, the second death from which there is no return (Rev. 20:13-15).


God is going to make a new creation where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). You cannot enter without becoming righteous and the power to overcome has already been made available. Don't wait until it is too late, his Spirit will not always strive with man. The day is coming when Christ will say let him who is filthy be filthy still (Rev. 22:11). Paul asks a very pointed question - do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Cor. 6:9)

Matthew 16:27 ...what can a man give in exchange for his soul. For the Son of Man will come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will repay each one according to what he has done.

If you say all you need do is believe, I hope you mean in the sense of obedience, trust, commitment, and relationship. I hope you show mercy so that you will receive mercy. I hope that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I hope by the Spirit's power you overcome your carnal nature and show your repentance by your deeds.

I am not advocating a vain attempt to earn salvation by works. I am beseeching those who have not already done so, to accept Christ for real - personally, intimately, permanently. If Christ is formed in you, works of righteousness will come naturally. They are a manifestation of the new nature - evidence you are truly born again, your experience is genuine, your faith is authentic.

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him?

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Acts 26:20 I (Paul) preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.


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Mission Trip Africa

By Ken Rich, 2017-03-26
Mission Trip Africa

In my capacity as the Special Events Coordinator of We All Are One Ministry, Inc. (WAAOM), I will be accompanying Teresa Wiggins (WAAOM President) on a mission trip to Africa.

We will be sharing the Gospel and meeting the needs of orphans, widows, and the poor, under the care of WAAOM orphanages, CBO's, and Ministries.

Please help fund this important cause. Our work is done on a volunteer basis and benefits the disadvantaged. Below is a video from one of the WAAOM orphanages featuring Steve Mercer, a WAAOM missionary currently serving in this area.

If you would like to help, you can make a tax-deductible donation through Paypal, or use our gofundme. If you can't donate, please use the easy share tools to the left (or bottom) of the page to promote the project, or just share this short URL - Thanks for your support.


Mission Trip Africa 400.jpg

Tax Deductible 501(c)(3)

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The Prosperity Gospel Refuted

By Ken Rich, 2017-02-28
The Prosperity Gospel Refuted

Is the prosperity gospel the true Gospel of Jesus Christ or another gospel (Gal. 1:8)? There are some very sincere people who believe it to be biblically sound. They have many "proof" texts to support their position but how can we be sure the texts in question are being interpreted correctly? Is the real meaning of the texts being ignored and a presupposition read into them, a process called eisegesis?

Here are a few brief examples. It would take a book, not an article, to cover them all in depth.

2 Corinthians 8:9 "
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

In splendid isolation, this text looks very supportive of the prosperity gospel. However, context is everything. As the well-known Bible commentator Albert Barnes said of this verse, Christ "...was willing to leave his exalted station... and to become poor, in order that we might become rich in the blessings of the gospel... and (we) who have such an example, should be willing to part with our earthly possessions in order that we may benefit others."

It is clear from the weight of scripture, that Christ didn't leave his exalted position in heaven and sacrifice himself to make us millionaires, he did it to secure our salvation. If one would look just a little further in this chapter to verse 13, Paul summarizes what he is trying to communicate. It is NOT that God desires you to be financially wealthy, he was actually imploring the Church in Corinth to divest themselves of their riches in order to help those in need elsewhere. He was using Christ's wonderful example of self-sacrifice to inspire his audience.

Paul did not want one person (or one group) to have abundance while others suffered privation, he wanted those with excess to give to those who lacked. To create equality such that no one had to do without, the giver or the receiver.

2 Corinthians 8:13 "
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality."

Notice in the first two verses of this chapter Paul points to "
believers" in need, which would not be the case if the Gospel is supposed to make believers rich (as some teach). If a "prosperity gospel" existed, it was certainly not working for these worthy souls.

2 Corinthians 8:1-2 "
...Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty..."

Paul is talking about Churches. These are believers he considers authentic, even praiseworthy, who are experiencing extreme poverty. Does he tell them to just "name and claim" their wealth? Does he suggest they give the little they have to him, so that God will bless them back a hundred fold? Does he say if they would pay God a tithe, the windows of heaven would open and they would be showered with blessings? No, Paul asks those who are wealthy to give up their excess riches and support their poor brethren.

Christ's lofty example of self-sacrifice is simply used by Paul to encourage the Corinthians to sacrifice their lowly money. What the prosperity preachers read into 2 Corinthians 8 is that God desires them to be rich. What Paul actually advocates, is that those who have wealth should support the poor.


Another verse often ripped from its context is Mark 10:30 (below). Notice that they conveniently leave out verse 23 of the same chapter where Christ says " is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven." They also leave out Christ's admonition to the rich man in verse 21 to “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor..." Instead, they focus on verse 30.

Mark 10:30
...will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields..."

Not seeing the beauty of belonging to the body of Christ and having all things in common, they teach that if you give up a house or field (for Christ), you will literally receive back a hundred houses or fields for your personal profit. It is forced literalism to suit their agenda.

They use this verse to support what some teachers call the “Law of Compensation.” It is quite different than the "Law of Christ" (LOVE). They want you to give them your money, to sow into their Ministry, enticed by the false promise that God will then bless you back 100 fold financially. They manipulate both the greed of the rich and the desperation of the needy.

For example, in a book called 
God’s Will is Prosperity, Gloria Copeland says “Give $10 and receive $1,000; give $1,000 and receive $100,000... She is NOT asking you to GIVE TO THE POOR. To receive this blessing you must give to her and her billionaire husband Kenneth Copeland.

However, there is another teacher (named Jesus), in a much better book (called the Bible), who graphically illustrates that such giving is from faulty motives. In Luke 10:29-37 Jesus tells the story of the "good" Samaritan. He took from his own pocket to pay the expenses of a stranger he found in need. He didn't do it in order to receive and be blessed, but to give and be a blessing. His motive was love, not monetary gain, and we are told to do likewise.

Luke 10: 29-37 "...‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ ...Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Again, in Luke 6:35, Jesus taught us to give, even to our enemies, expecting 
nothing in return. The false teachers tell you to give to them, expecting 100 fold back in return.

Luke 6:35 - "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

Indeed, there is a reward for giving, but it is not monetary gain. It is spiritual gain, to live as a child of God. Both the motive and reward are different than what false teachers read into the text.


Another often used text that they misinterpret contextually and grammatically is:

3 John 1:2 "Beloved, I pray that in every way you may prosper and enjoy good health, as your soul also prospers."

First of all, it is a greeting, not a doctrinal statement. Not that greetings can't also speak to doctrine but that is apparently not John's intent here. We need not have dollar signs in our eyes and view the text as the prosperity preachers do. Modern translations use language that does not carry the connotations some like to assign to this verse. What John was really saying has nothing to do with money.

3 John 1:2 - "Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit."


Let's take a quick look at a few verses that are often used as the collection plate is passed around. They are sold as God's guarantee that the money will come back to you multiplied.

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

If you take a look at the train of thought in that chapter, this is actually talking about giving mercy, not money. It is in the context of judging others just as in Matthew 7:2. When you pray the Lord's prayer and ask that "your sins be forgiven just as you forgive others", you are expressing the same thought. The same common proverbial expression is used in Mark 4:24 where spiritual knowledge is in view. Why make it about money when money isn't mentioned in these texts?

What about this verse, written over 400 years before the first Church even existed? The context is the nation of Israel where by law the various tribes supported the now defunct and obsolete Levitical Priesthood with part of their crops and flocks (not money). It refers to the requirement to store a tenth of their grain for the Levites. It has nothing to do with money, Churches, or the New Covenant - where free will giving, not tithing, is the model exclusively taught.

Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."

How did grain become money, the storage silo become the Church, and the promise of rain for bumper crops become financial rewards? The tithe has no validity in the New Covenant, just as animal sacrifice, stoning, and hundreds of other practices, ended when Christ nailed the law to his cross (Col. 2:14).

Just as circumcision of the flesh has now become circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29), we no longer tithe but give from the heart (2 Cor. 9:7). Not by law, or compulsion, or by a set amount, our hearts determine the gift.

Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the early Church was supplied by spontaneous offerings and it was not until the sixth century that a tithe was imposed based on the old law. Rome used it like a tax to support its massive structures and army of priests and prelates. When the Protestants broke away, some groups followed Rome's tradition, while others faithfully stood on God's Word (sola scriptura).

There is not one tithing verse in the entire Bible that can legitimately be applied to Christians, yet many modern Churches mandate a tithe in order to fill their coffers. The theological gymnastics involved amounts to a shameless twisting of scripture and willful ignorance of history.

Perhaps the most blatant and odious use of a pretext to solicit funds involves Christ's parable of sowing the seed of the WORD and reaping a SPIRITUAL harvest. This is morphed into sowing seed money and reaping a monetary reward up to 100 times what was sown. The underhanded guile of this claim is appalling.

Mark 4:20 "Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown."


Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

The prosperity Gospel is highly objectionable in that faith and prayer become tools to acquire material gain rather than justification before God and life in the Spirit. Not that there is anything wrong with provision but there is a great difference between God's promise to supply your daily bread and the expectation that he must make us rich if only we believe and pray in a way that unlocks his power to provide.

James 4:3 "You do not have because you do not ask God." This verse is often quoted and tied to John 14:14 (and other verses) to support their mantra that all one must do is ask in faith and God will give you "ANYTHING".

By implication, if you do not have health or wealth, or something you desire, it is because you lack faith, or did not ask for it in prayer, or didn't sow into their Ministry to share in their anointing. In other words, you are not a "super" Christian like them, rolling in money, so you must be deficient in some way. You do not have success as they (and the world) measure success.

What they conveniently leave out is the rest of James 4 and other verses that set conditions for God's response to our prayers.

James 4:3 "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

1 John 5:14
-15 "If we ask anything according to his will...


Christ did not leave any room for us to wonder about God's will when it comes to our relationship to material wealth. God is a God of provision. He doesn't want us stressing out over where our next meal is coming from. He promises that if you put his kingdom and righteousness first, he will supply what you need (not necessarily what you want). We are not to go chasing after riches like the pagans do, making the accumulation of wealth the goal of our life.

Matthew 6:32 - So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Does this verse teach that God is going to make us millionaires, or supply all of our wants or desires? No, not at all. However, it does mean he will provide for our daily bread, our sustenance. If we have our basic needs met we should be grateful and content with that, not clamoring after riches. Paul made this very clear:

1 Timothy 6:8-9 "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." (see also Hebrews 13:5, Luke 12:15, Proverbs 30:8-9)

Still, prosperity preachers will go to great lengths to justify their lavish lifestyles and swollen bank accounts. They see no reason to be ashamed of their success, for in their minds that is the abundant life God promised.

Is it?
Does God wish us to pile up obscene wealth, live in opulent mansions, fly private jets, and drive luxury automobiles - while at the same innocent children starve? Does such wealth come from God, or from fleecing those seeking God? It's not just TV Evangelists who follow the yellow brick road.  “Avarice,” by Vatican reporter Emiliano Fittipaldiand, and "Merchants in the Temple" by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzirecently, recently added to the long list of books, movies, and documentaries exposing scandalous corruption in the Vatican.


Some point to Bible characters like Solomon to show that God does not object to wealth. I notice that they don't point to the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Jews of Christ's day also believed that wealth was a sign of favor from God, so he told that parable to correct their misconceptions.

Be that as it may, it is not a sin to be wealthy and Solomon is a valid example of someone to whom God gave enormous wealth. However, it didn't turn out to be a blessing to him but an example of how wealth can become your undoing. Solomon used his great wealth to surround himself with beautiful women from foreign cultures (despite God's warning and his great gift of wisdom). He had a thousand wives and concubines, a harem of temptation no man of ordinary means could afford. They corrupted him and he ended up building shrines to their pagan Gods.

Job was also very wealthy, but God allowed the devil to take away all that he had, in order to test his faith. This raises enormous questions which cut to the very heart of the matter, to the very crux of the issue at hand. What is GOD trying to accomplish in us? How does HE measure success? What is it that GOD wants for us? The affliction of Job was for the same purpose as the affliction of Israel.

Isa. 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.


Some people like to heap up teachers who will paint a rosy picture.They want a cosmic "Santa Claus" in place of God, who will give them everything they want, accept every behavior, and demand nothing difficult from them.

They seem to have forgotten that in response to the fall, God's desire is not for us to be spoiled and lavished with creature comforts. That's what the natural man wants, but is it what God wants for us?

God cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17) for man's sake because in our existential sufferings we learn lessons the ease of the garden of Eden couldn't teach us. Show me someone who has had ease, comfort, prosperity, and health all their life, and I'll show you someone whose self-indulgence has forged the spiritual mettle of a marshmallow. It's trials and tribulations that develop perseverance and proven character, not ease and luxury.

Romans 5:3-5 "...we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Theologians frame this issue in terms of antecedent will versus consequent will. God would prefer to have us live in a garden of Eden, wallowing in eternal bliss. However, he created us with free will and we chose a path of sin and rebellion. He responded with a plan of salvation that involves faith, repentance, discipline, and a process of sanctification.

Consider God's discipline. A small boy may not understand why their Father disciplines them, or forces them to eat right and exercise, or doesn't allow them to go somewhere with their friends. Although the boy can't understand and resents his Father's discipline, it doesn't mean that his Father doesn't love him - correctly understood, it is evidence that he does love him. 

Some teachers deny that God would ever bring affliction, or that suffering can be good for the soul. They promise only health, wealth, sunshine, and lollipops, but what does the word of God say?

Psalm 119:67 "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word."

Hebrews 12:10-11 "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."


Don't get me wrong, I'm not against comfort, abundance, and provision. I'm not saying we should live in squalor, suffer the indignities of poverty, accept ill health, or go live on a mountaintop.

It's OK to want God to bless our finances, our health, our relationships, our circumstances. In the right hands,
money can be a force for good. After all, the good Samaritan couldn't help his neighbor if he was in need himself, or home on a sick bed.

However, there is a reason we are given dire warnings about the deceitfulness of riches (Matt. 13:22), not to place our trust in them (1 Timothy 6:17), to guard against greed (Luke 12:15), NOT to live in luxury and self-indulgence (James 5: 1-6). Why did Christ pronounce woe to the rich (Luke 6:24), tell them to sell their possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21), and declare it was harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25)?

We are warned because wealth is no substitute for the far greater blessing God is trying to produce in us! Worldly riches can actually be an impediment to obtaining spiritual riches. They can give us a false sense of security and attainment. What is the counsel Christ gives to believers who are deceived by wealth?

Revelation 3:17- 19 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire (faith), so you can become rich (spiritually); and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

There is a blessing that brings all other blessings in its train and God will go to great lengths to make sure you don't miss it. He may actually deprive you of your wealth (like Job), or allow various trials, to test your faith which is "more precious than gold" (1 Peter 1:7).

1 Peter 1:4-7 ...we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you... These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.

This agrees with what Paul said, that "our sufferings are achieving for us an eternal glory in heaven" (2 Cor. 4:17) "where eye has not seen, nor ear has not heard, nor has it even entered into the mind of man what God has prepared" (1 Cor. 2:9).

So do not exchange your inheritance in heaven, for worldly treasures - that would be a fool's bargain. Ask God to increase your faith, even though it may bring you trials and hardships, not luxury.

Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?


James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

It is true that God is the giver of every good gift. It's our perception of what is good for us, and how God should provide his gifts, that may be lacking.

Faith is good, but it needs to be refined in the furnace of affliction. Growth is good, but it comes with pruning. Correction is good, but it comes with discipline. Perseverance is good, but it comes through trials and tribulations. Promotion is good, but it is preceded by tests. 

Physical health is good, but like the child who is upset when his Father forces him to eat vegetables (instead of junk food), and walk (not be driven) to the bus stop, we want spiritual health without the hardships that help produce it. 

Consider the butterfly, it must go through a mighty and heart-rending struggle to escape from its cocoon. If you open the cocoon to make it easier, it will never be strong enough to fly. In the same way, we need the struggles and hardships of our lives to strengthen us spiritually. Lack of faith traps us in a cocoon of helplessness, but our struggles strengthen us so that we can one day soar with spiritual power. 

That is the place of ultimate blessing that God would have us obtain. Like a refiner of silver, he holds us in the fire until he sees himself reflected in us. Then, when the dross is purged away, we are truly blessed and our passage through the flame seems but a light affliction compared to the glory wrought in us. True riches, eternal blessings, pleasures at his right hand forevermore. The worldly treasures men seek cannot compare.

Matthew 6:10 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


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In Defense Of Christmas

By Ken Rich, 2016-12-12
In Defense Of Christmas

We are all familiar with the attacks on Christmas by atheists and secularists who are "offended" by the Christian connotations of the holiday. Demands have been made for the removal of nativity scenes from public spaces and for the term "Happy Holidays" to replace "Merry Christmas".

Be that as it may, there are also professed Christians who vilify Christmas and I am actually writing with them in mind. Some feel the holiday has an association with paganism and therefore reject it. Santa, the tree, the revelry, and the other pagan aspects of the holiday, are of course, not of Biblical origin. Most Christian scholars agree that Christ was born in the fall, not December 25. That date is reputedly related to pagan sun worship.

Assuming that's true, replacing a pagan festival with a celebration honoring the birth of the Savior, is somewhat of a victory in my estimation. Personally, I see nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of our Lord. I'm happy that he came and died for me. Nativity scenes, special services honoring the King, theatrical productions retelling the story, are all good things in my eyes.

Some in the Christian community refer to Christmas and Easter as baptized paganism. So what's the alternative? Tell the world to stop celebrating the Savior and go back to sun worship? The big problem I see with the legalistic mindset, is that it condemns everything outside of the narrow confines of what it deems acceptable, and believes everything (and everybody) else, is offensive to God. However, few things are as offensive to God, as the legalistic mindset itself.

How far are you willing to go to purify yourself? If you say Christians compromise the truth by celebrating Christmas, where do you set your own limits? Rings are of pagan origin, so do you wear a wedding ring? Do you shake hands when greeting others? The handshake had it's origin in paganism! How about the myriad of symbols allegedly originating with occult systems. Some people actually find circles and triangles offensive! Should you stop driving your car because the steering wheel is round or the company logo resembles a pentagram (Chrysler)? Are you going to do what the Pharisees did, and start adding prohibition after prohibition - until you are staggering under a load of burdens?

Also, consider the fact that many of the traditions commanded by God, and found in scripture, initially had pagan origins. Other traditions were not by command of God, but were accepted practices among his people and not condemned by him.

Circumcision was practiced by the Egyptians before it was practiced by the Jews. It was a cultural practice which had some religious significance. God captured the practice, gave it to Abraham, reinvested it with new meaning and it became a religious rite for Abraham to worship his creator. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, wasn't given by God in the Scriptures. It's something that they do to recollect a deliverance, a special deliverance. (Is Christmas Pagan? Gregory Koukl)

Some people condemn what God does not condemn. They have not found their freedom in Christ, and have no love for others. Bondage to legalistic thinking and condemnation of others characterizes their spiritual condition.

Luke 6:37 Stop judging, and you will never be judged. Stop condemning, and you will never be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord's Spirit is, there is freedom.

1 Corinthians 10:23 We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good.

I was once a legalist and seriously considered removing Christmas from my life. Baptized paganism, said the voices I was listening to. Now I listen to the Spirit, and when Christmas comes, I am thankful that Christ came to this earth (in the flesh) to save me! I rejoice in his birth, his life, his Gospel of love, and his hard-won victory - what is pagan about that?

Did some of the trappings (tree, balls, mistletoe, etc.) of Christmas, originate with paganism? Although debate exists, there is evidence to support that claim. So what? Like circumcision, it's not what it meant originally that counts, it's what it currently means. Circumcision was originally associated with paganism (Encyclopedia Britannica), then commanded by God and adopted by the Jews, later nullified by the New Covenant, and now seen as a sign of legalism - by those free in Christ.

1 John 3:21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God.

This season I encourage you to put Christ back into Christmas and show love to your neighbor. Let us strive to honor the King in word and deed each and every day of the coming new year.


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The Power of Prayer

By Ken Rich, 2016-04-18
The Power of Prayer

Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is essential to the Christian experience. Although much can be found about prayer in the Bible there are three passages that help to put prayer into perspective for me:

Hebrews 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us... Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith...

We can have confidence as we approach God in prayer. We can enter the very throne room of grace without fear or shame because of what Jesus has done. If you are like me with a sinful past and are still making mistakes, this is an important concept.

The second passage is the Lord's prayer itself. Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I usually start my prayer sessions with the Lord's prayer since it is recommended by Jesus himself. It simply and eloquently covers all the bases. Then I move on to specific issues, which allows me to communicate in a personal, intimate relationship with God. I share all my hopes and dreams and cast all my cares upon him. I always ask for forgiveness and for God to change me for the better.

He has not let me down. I was a very vile person in my youth. I was addicted to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, with filthy language, bad temper, and various other defects of character. Over the years ,God has changed me and taken me from victory to victory. His promises are sure and although I am not yet perfect, I am grateful I am not what I once was. Prayer has had everything to do with the changes wrought in me.

The third passage is Daniel 6:10 ...Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 

This passage is a great example and reminder of the effectiveness of a consistent prayer life. While I am sure he had his weak moments, there is no mention of Daniel sinning. How unlike David, Samson, Moses and most other Bible characters who had noteworthy defects of character. Daniel stood firm in his relationship with God, even though he was in a heathen land and in a position of power and temptation. I sometimes pray dozens of times in the course of a day depending on my circumstances. However, I always try to consistently communicate with my maker at least three times a day like Daniel. In fact, I just don't feel right if I miss a session.
256I am reminded of a Pastor who taught me before your feet even touch the ground, pray before getting out of bed. Wise advice! It starts you off on the right foot each day. Whatever trials await you, whether known or unknown, can be prepared for in advance. Power and help are available for all situations.

I am also reminded of a line in an old Country Gospel song Mountains of Gold (Dave Butler) which says that money can't buy peace when you're sleeping and a conscience that's free. I know what can - prayer.

The power of prayer gives me something for which the rich and powerful would trade kingdoms and fortunes. When I retire for the evening, I review the trials, the sins, the regrets, the worries of the day and lay them at the feet of God in prayer. Then I drift off to sleep with something beyond price, peace when I'm sleeping and a conscience that's free.

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Romans 7 - The Divided Man

By Ken Rich, 2016-03-05
Romans 7 - The Divided Man

Romans 7 is one of the most hotly contested scriptures in the Bible. Early Greek Fathers saw it one way, Latin Fathers saw it another. Their views come down to us today wrapped in Arminian and Calvinist interpretations and there are brilliant scholars with alternative ways of looking at it as well.

Personally, I reject Calvinism strenuously for its Manichean fatalism, introduced to Christianity by Augustine and later adopted by Calvin. However, I agree with the Calvinist camp on this particular text, with a few caveats.

With Arminians, I would agree that a regenerate person should have new motivations and be no longer DOMINATED by the sin nature. However, I disagree with those who deny that there is any sin nature left to war with at all. Even Wesley who fathered the doctrine of "Total Sanctification" did not make such a claim. 

Only let it be remembered, that the heart, even of a believer, is not wholly purified when he is justified. Sin is then overcome, but it is not rooted out; it is conquered, but not destroyed. Experience shows him, First, that the roots of sin, self-will, pride, and idolatry, remain still in his heart. But as long as he continues to watch and pray, none of them can prevail against him. Experience teaches him, Secondly, that sin (generally pride or self-will) cleaves to his best actions: So that, even with regard to these, he finds an absolute necessity for the blood of atonement. The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 123 The Deceitfulness Of The Human Heart

My view is somewhat of a "hybrid", in the sense that I see the subject of Romans 7 to be Paul and regenerate (as Calvinists generally interpret the text), but I see free will (Arminian - libertarian) as the hinge upon which the war within swings.

There is no doubt Paul is forcefully bringing home the point that the law exposes the wretchedness of our natures, but can't cure us, showing our desperate need of salvation in Christ. Like an alcoholic who first has to admit he has a problem before he will seek a cure, Paul has to expose the wretch within, so that we see our depraved nature, our sin problem.

There is an implicit “in and of myself”, which undergirds Paul's statements. He is attempting to emphasize our plight - that we are helpless in OUR OWN power and a legalistic approach is utterly futile.

Romans 7 is not wholly autobiographical. Paul is drawing from personal experience, but labouring to make a point. NOT that wretched failure and depravity should be normative for a Christian, but that we have a REAL sin nature that must be overcome. Therefore, sin must be BOTH atoned for, and warred against.

He uses the law to expose the sin problem, at the same time showing that legalism only exacerbates it, rather than solves it. This makes us appreciate more fully the atonement of the cross, and the sanctifying influence of the Spirit. They are together brought out so beautifully in chapter 8, as the SOLUTION which brings VICTORY.

However, there is more here. WHY must the subject of chapter 7 (OF A NECESSITY) be seen as regenerate? What makes this important to the overall meaning expressed through ch. 5,6,7 and 8?

I believe it is the "NOW AND NOT YET" nature of the salvation described in the flow of these chapters, that causes some people to miss the meaning. Not maintaining the proper balance of NOW BUT NOT YET also leads some to stray too far toward Gnosticism, perfectionism, or other errors.

In Romans 7:25 Paul thanks God for salvation in Christ, yet in the very same breath reaffirms the CONFLICT REMAINS. In fact, chapter 8 describes how to fight the conflict outlined in 7 (which remains). Still, how can it remain, when Paul also said we are dead to sin and dead to the law (chapter 6)?

The answer is TIMING. We can COUNT ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ (chapter 6) because it is a surety IF we meet the condition of continued faith, UNTIL the redemption of our bodies (chapter 8). While inwardly groaning as we wait for the completion, chapter 7 exposes our depravity through the law, and chapter 8 shows us the cure for our depravity through life in the Spirit (and atonement).

So we are NOW dead to sin and alive "in Christ", but not FULLY dead UNTIL glorification. We ARE redeemed and no longer under condemnation, but we must CONTINUE to struggle to overcome the flesh by the Spirit. If we attempt to "freeze" any part of this transaction and remove it from the "NOW BUT NOT YET" context, we open ourselves to error.

Some say Paul (who actually thanks God for his salvation in 7:25) cannot possibly be saved (since his body in chapter  7 is subject to sin and death). These same people have absolutely no problem seeing salvation in chapter 8, YET the body is STILL subject to SIN AND DEATH in chapter 8 .

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, then EVEN THOUGH YOUR BODY IS SUBJECT TO DEATH BECAUSE OF SIN, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

So their reasoning is flawed, and an essential truth is lost. The redemption in Christ applies EVEN THOUGH our bodies are not yet glorified and STILL subject to sin and death. There is NO CONDEMNATION yet our redemption is NOT FINALIZED, until the glorification of our bodies. So there is STILL a VERY REAL struggle to face, a WAR to be fought.

1 Peter 2:11 ...abstain from fleshly lusts which wage WAR against the soul.

The old man of sin does not die easily, nor fully, UNTIL we are glorified. We NEED this awareness lest we become either DISCOURAGED or COMPLACENT as we learn to walk by the Spirit and put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13).

Encouragement for those who stumble:

1 John 2:1 I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Warning Against Complacency

1 Cor 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

We are to strive for perfection (Phil 3:12), but practically speaking we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2), and groan inwardly until the final glorification of our bodies (Romans 8:23). There is no excuse for sin, for the power to OVERCOME is available and we are required to do so. Not that we will never sin, but it shall not be our master, we will not habitually sin, we will not make a practice of sin.

The Spirit can be resisted, grieved, even quenched, so if we do sin it's because of our free will choice, not because the power to overcome is not available. Thus "predestined monergism" and "once saved always saved" are falsified by how we relate to the "already, but not yet" nature of the salvation process. We must cooperate with the Spirit, and it's not over until we are glorified. The process is synergistic and ongoing. If you choose to give up along the way, you will make a "shipwreck of your faith" (1 Tim 1:9). 

Hebrews 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ IF we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end...

Rev. 21:7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Those who deny the struggle of the regenerate taught in Romans 7 and 8 are on a dangerous path. When practical experience doesn't live up to their theology, disillusionment or self-deception are inevitable. We must overcome, but it is not easy or instantaneous.

Perseverance is required, real commitment over a lifetime. We will have difficult battles to fight but the Spirit will help us if we let him. If we have a temporary setback, forgiveness is available. We must not become discouraged - we must keep moving forward - we must overcome.

Romans 8 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but IF by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

"Proclamation of a gospel which promises only pardon, peace and power will result in converts who sooner or later become disillusioned or deceitful about their Christian experience.” Dunn, "Romans 7: 14-25 in the Theology of Paul," 273

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

By Ken Rich, 2016-03-05
Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why does God allow suffering? Theologians and philosophers have struggled with this question for ages. After all, if God is all powerful and all knowing, can't he prevent or stop it? For some people, this is a stumbling block to faith and they never get past it. 

I would not be so presumptuous as to claim an authoritative answer that others have missed. However, I do think there are some insights into this mystery, that God has provided in his Word.

The problem of suffering appears to be centered around free will. God created us (and the angels) with free will, and if he had not, we would be mere robots - not truly alive. He created us as free moral agents with the ability to choose right or wrong. 

Love is the supreme ethic God is trying to establish in us, but it cannot be forced. It cannot exist without the free will to choose it, thus, freedom is an absolute necessity. However, freedom is a dangerous thing, since it can be abused. What if someone chooses not to love?

We can frame this issue in terms of antecedent will versus consequent will. God would prefer to have us live in a garden of Eden, wallowing in eternal bliss. However, he created us with free will and we chose a path of sin and rebellion. He responded with a plan of salvation that involves faith, repentance, discipline, and a process of sanctification.

There is a path back to Eden but it is neither instant, nor easy. The restoration of all things will come at the appointed time (Acts.3:21), and until then all creation groans, as we wait in hope for what we do not yet have (Romans 8:22).

We live in a fallen world and although there are different causes of suffering, much of it is caused by sin. It is often horrific, senseless, and certainly not the will of God. Rather, it stems from the abuse of free will by created beings (angels or men) and results in judgment by God.



The Bible says that Satan was once a covering Cherub full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. It says he was perfect in all of his ways until iniquity was found in him (Ez. 28). God didn't make a devil, he created a powerful being who chose to become evil. In fact, pride was identified as the cause of his fall. 

The Bible says he rebelled and there was war in heaven. The devil was cast out and his angels (one third chose to follow him) were cast out with him (Rev. 12). God could have destroyed them on the spot, but he doesn't want his creation to serve him out of fear, but out of love. In his sovereignty, he predetermined a set amount of time, to allow these issues to be experientially understood by all. That sin causes suffering, that evil must be destroyed because of the terrible consequences it brings.

Ecclesiastes 3:17 God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed 

In fact, Jesus told us in the parable of the wheat and tares that an enemy has done this. The situation must be dealt with over the course of time, not immediately corrected. Otherwise, harm would come to us and we would be uprooted along with the tares. When the time is right, when it is safe to do so without harming us, God will intervene to bring judgement upon the malefactors, healing for the victims, and restoration to all of creation.

Matthew 13:24-30 - "He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’

Do that miss that critical point - God has very good reasons for not acting immediately. Do not think that means he is doing nothing, or is unaware, or doesn't care, or is powerless. His response involves a time element, which some misinterpret as indifference, or inaction. 

To this day, fallen angels, and also fallen men, are in rebellion against God and make war against his saints. Many battles take place in the spiritual realm, and like any war there are casualties. Sometimes innocent children are hurt or killed. No one is more grieved by this than God, but rest assured, not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his knowledge and care (Mt.10:29). 

Vengeance is mine sayest the Lord and although it may seem (from our limited perspective) that injustices and cruelty go unanswered, they do not. God is independent of time (as we understand it), and every crime will meet with judgment in the end (Heb. 10:30). 

Judgment is coming, sin and sinners will be no more - there is a set time and place when all this will end (Rev. 20:11). Scripture says affliction will not rise up a second time (Na.1:9). God's principles will be vindicated as righteous and all of creation will worship him in love, without doubting his leadership. They will have freedom, but will not abuse it, nothing impure will remain (Rev. 21:27). 

It is written that God is not mocked - we will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7). God is not mocked because when you choose to remove God from your life, you have no protection from the devil, or from your own evil impulses. Most of us are self-destructive and our own worst enemies. It's not that God strikes you down, he respects your freedom and backs away. God is not mocked also, in the sense that no one gets away with anything. Judgment is coming and all your secrets are bare before him

There will be a happy ending to the story, for all but the unrepentant. Those who turn in repentance to God, and the innocents who suffered at the hands of the wicked, or those who died cruelly from famine or disease before even having a chance to develop - have a God of infinite power and love to restore and heal them. 

The Bible says God himself will wipe away our tears (Rev.21:4), and that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even entered into the heart of man the things God has in store for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9). Those who have suffered in this short life, have much to look forward to - for eternity (Is.65:17). 

It's our linear view of time, our finite minds, our myopic perspective, that prevent us from grasping the ultimate meaning and purpose of this enigma. The great apostle Paul suffered beatings, scourging, stoning, persecution, opposition, shipwreck, peril, privation, imprisonment, and was eventually beheaded - yet he said this: 

2 Corinthians 4:17 Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. 

There are different reasons and causes for hardship and suffering. Not all suffering is senseless and cruel! There is a form of suffering that is actually good and beneficial. We are told that God disciplines those he loves, like a Father meting out punishment to an erring child. Such discipline is unpleasant, but for our ultimate good (Heb. 12:7-11). We must trust his plan for our lives. Besides corrective discipline, God allows trials and tribulations to strengthen us, and cause spiritual growth. 

Romans 5:3 ...we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn't disappoint us... 

Gardeners sometimes prune plants to cause them to grow better. Some things (we perceive as bad or unpleasant) God allows because of the harvest it produces in us spiritually. This is another form of suffering that is actually good for us, in the long run. 

You see, God is not a cosmic Santa Claus like some teachers make him out to be. He is far more interested in forming a right character and faith in you than he is in spoiling you with wealth, or lavish creature comforts. He may even allow the devil to deprive you of your worldly comforts, to try your faith. 

Job's faith was tested and he was a better man because of it. The fact that God gave back double what was taken from him, was just an added bonus to the real benefit - faith tried in the furnace of affliction

Isa. 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction. 

For a deeper understanding of God's discipline I recommend this article - Tough Love - In the Furnace of Affliction? I remind you that I am not talking about the sinful, senseless, mindless brutality that sometimes occurs. Sin and the suffering it causes is not God's will. He created the earth to be a garden of Eden, which we forsook. Unfortunately, our way back to Eden is a difficult, rocky, narrow path - not the broad road of ease and self-indulgence.

Acts 14:22 "We must endure many hardships to get into the kingdom of God."

1 Peter 1:6-7 have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials...

Peter says above that the trials have a definite purpose - to test and purify our faith so that it is genuine. He says below that we should consider it normal, not strange, that these fiery trials come...

1 Peter 4:12-13 "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you...

It is also helpful to keep in mind that the tests God brings, are only for a season. When their purpose is complete, God himself will restore and establish you. Perhaps in a new level of responsibility, or with greater power to operate in. He is growing you up into Christ, refining you, strengthening you, leading you to greater things...

1 Peter 5:10 ...after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Job 23:10 ...when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. 

Why do some blame God? We chose to join the devil in rebellion. God is doing everything that he can (short of taking away our freedom), to lead us to love and truth. He sent the prophets and we stoned them, he sent his own Son and we brutally tortured and killed him. We chose to crucify Christ, rather than repent and learn to love one another, as he taught. 

God loves us so much, that he endured watching us torture his Son - just so he could save those who would choose to turn from sin and suffering. Jesus loves us so much, that he took the abuse, in order to save us from ourselves, and the devils manipulations. God himself suffers and is grieved, he can identify with you in your sufferings. 

This brings us to grace. Jesus provided a way for you to wipe the slate clean, even if your sins have caused great suffering to others. He took the punishment you deserve, and if you will allow him to (freewill), he will apply the merits of his sacrifice to cover your sin. He will also transform you, by the renewing of your mind, and form a right character in you - if you allow his Spirit to indwell you.

Rev. 3:20
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Notice that God is actively seeking entrance to your heart. He seeks, he knocks, he calls, but it's up to you to open the door and let him in. He doesn't force his way in, a synergism exists whereby God initiates and we respond. 

Please don't get lost in the endless arguments between Calvinism and Arminianism. The extremes of both positions are wrong. A strict fatalistic monergism is flawed, as is an over emphasis on man's part in the synergy, such that God's sovereignty is not acknowledged. 

Our freewill exists within the predetermined limits that God, in his sovereignty, has imposed 

God foresaw the problem of sin. In fact, the plan of salvation was predestined before the world was formed.

Rev. 13:8 the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world... 

The plan of salvation was predestined, but your participation in it is a free will choice 

It's up to you to choose the free gift of salvation by faith in Christ, or to continue in sinful rebellion until God is forced to end the suffering you are causing - the hard way. The finally impenitent will meet their fate. 

2 Peter 2:5 he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people...

Psalm 37:38 But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off...

Romans 6 For the wages of sin is death...

Ezekiel 33:11 - As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. 

Unfortunately, most people just don't get it. Don't blame God for what the wicked do, blame the wicked for not doing what God does - love

Also, rest assured, judgment will be executed and the rebellion will be put down - along with the suffering it causes. For the people of God, there will be peace, love, and beauty forever - as it should be. 

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power

Rev. 21:3-4 Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

No More Tears.jpg

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Grace - Only Available to Sinners!

By Ken Rich, 2009-06-04
Grace - Only Available to Sinners!

Romans 11:32 God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. 

We wouldn't need mercy if we were righteous. Whether it is nations and people groups, or individuals, we all have a common affliction and a common need for mercy and forgiveness. I think it is only when we try and fail, when we stumble and fall, do we recognize our true condition and perceive our need for God. Perhaps that's why he gives us so much freedom. 

I like to characterize myself as an old sinner saved by grace. None of us are getting saved any other way! I even call the album I am working on "Songs from a Sinner". It's what I was (big time), and without Jesus, it is what I am. Without him, it's all I can ever be. Only in Christ, do I have any claim to righteousness! 

Sometimes, I run into the self-righteous sort, who say things like "what a name for an album - I thought you were supposed to be a Christian - why do you call yourself a sinner?" However, like Paul, I must declare myself "the chief of sinners" (and do away with any pretense). Only in Christ, am I anything but a sinner. I must get out of bed each day and crucify the old man. If I allow myself to live, instead of Christ living in me, I will inevitably sin, despite all the theology I have studied or how valiantly I strive to apply it. Romans 6:6; Ephesians 2:15; 4:22-24; and Colossians 3:9-11

Some sincere Christians deny that believers possess a sin nature which must be warred against and overcome. Often, it is because they have misunderstood Wesley's doctrine of "entire sanctification" and take it to extremes that he did not intend. Yes, we are to press forward in Christian maturity and perfection of character but with the knowledge that until glorification, the root of sin is not destroyed and atonement for our sin remains an absolute necessity.

Only let it be remembered, that the heart, even of a believer, is not wholly purified when he is justified. Sin is then overcome, but it is not rooted out; it is conquered, but not destroyed. Experience shows him, First, that the roots of sin, self-will, pride, and idolatry, remain still in his heart. But as long as he continues to watch and pray, none of them can prevail against him. Experience teaches him, Secondly, that sin (generally pride or self-will) cleaves to his best actions: So that, even with regard to these, he finds an absolute necessity for the blood of atonement. The Sermons of John Wesley - Sermon 123 The Deceitfulness Of The Human Heart

In fact, Paul says his righteousness as a Pharisee (blameless under the law), was rubbish compared to the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. (Philippians 3:4-9). You would be hard pressed to find anyone who was more zealous, or better trained, but self-effort didn't result in righteousness for Paul! He came to realize that he was a sinner, who needed salvation by grace, through faith. 

Romans 3 21-24 ...For there is no distinction among people, since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God's glory. By his grace, they are justified freely through the redemption that is in the Messiah Jesus... 

You see, only Christ's spotless robe of righteousness is acceptable at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Those who think their own filthy rags are worthy are in for a shock (Matt. 22:13). We must allow Christ to take away our filthy garments, and be covered in HIS robe. A merciful covering for our sin and shame - a gift we cannot earn, and don't deserve. That's grace - it's free, but it's only available to sinners! 

In the story of the Pharisee and the publican, only one went home justified, the one who confessed he was a sinner. The self-righteous, the hypocrites, the presumptuous, do not receive the imparted, or imputed, righteousness of Christ. You must come to the place where you realize your true condition before you will perceive your need for a Savior and throw yourself on God's mercy.

That's not to say that we need not repent, or need not war against and overcome sin. He will empower and motivate us to do so, as long as we choose to abide in him. Sin will no longer be our master, we are called to walk uprightly, not in the habitual sin of our former lives. However, if we stumble in our walk, we have an advocate. Grace and mercy for our shortcomings is available.

1 John 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 

Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. 

If you have been confused by the conflicting messages coming from different "camps" within Christianity regarding sin and salvation, here is a little deeper study along these lines Romans 7 - The Divided Man

Ken Rich

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